My retreat came earlier this year than I had planned. I had planned one in August right around my birthday. The reason for this unplanned retreat: I was down with Covid.
I could not believe it when I was tested positive. I had all those symptoms: flu, chills, muscle ache, cough but the results from the antigen tests were negative. I was hopeful that I might just be having a common flu. I prayed hard that I would remain ‘negative’ for Covid tests.
How could I get Covid, right? I am relatively healthy: I take my supplements daily. I have always been super careful: double my masks, sanitize the cart at the supermarket before using, sanitize my hands every time I touched something (may be I was a little extreme) and once I return home, I immediate sanitise my handbag and my phone. How can someone so careful like me get Covid?
On the morning of Day 5 of my exposure to the virus, I did an antigen test upon waking up. It said, “positive”.
I stared at the result. I was shattered.
I was given a ‘Home Isolation Or Surveillance Order’ for one week.
Home Isolation. Away from people. I am used to being away from people for retreats but this time, while in home isolation, I was in isolation with angry thoughts, bitter thoughts, sad thoughts.
On the first day, I spent much of my time being angry: I was angry at the person for giving the virus to me. My breaths were hot, like a fiery dragon’s. Nobody wants to be infected. Nobody in their right mind wants to pass the virus on to others, I understand. My friend is feeling guilty, I understand. But still, I was very angry. I have to announce to the church that I am a “Covid Positive”, a label I was trying to run away from ever since the start of Covid 2 years ago. And it has been miserable getting Covid. It was a terrible experience.
On the second day, I spent most of my time sulking and getting angry at God. I complained to God. Why would You allow this happen? What about Sunday? Who would preach at the church on Sunday? What would the church leaders think of me? Would the people run away from me when I see them in church on Sunday?
On the third day, I re-watched some of my favourite movies and TV series (grateful for streaming services and good internet connection). I laughed and laughed at my favourite scenes. The movie therapy took away my sadness and anger for a while. I talked to some friends (via chat, I couldn’t talk due to the persistent sore throat and cough). One of them commented that I have “joined the Covid party” which I thought was hilarious.
On the fourth day, I was ready for a therapy session with God. I stopped sulking and stopped throwing myself a pity party (but still angry at my friend!). Throughout these couples of days, family and friends remind me that God is with me. I may be angry and bitter but this does not change the fact that God loves me.
We are in the Season of Lent. Lent is to remember that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and night to prepare Himself for the public ministry. I would love to have been there to hear His intimate conversations with His Father in Heaven. In these 40 days, Jesus was tempted by the devil three times but every time He was tempted, He leaned on God’s Word and power and He was victorious over these temptations.
May be God wanted me to experience Him in a new way in this season of Lent. May be I should lean upon God and rest in Him, no matter what the circumstances I am in.
Looking back at the past couple of days, I am so grateful for family and friends who sent me words of encouragement. They check in on me daily to make sure that I am physically (and emotionally) healthy. There are friends who send me groceries, lunch and dinner, snacks, coconut juice, and a slice of yummy cheesecake. I am never hungry. I spent a lot of time at the dining table enjoying these little surprises. There are friends who go to the pharmacies for me to get the needed medication. I am never in need. My needs have been supplied.
When I count my blessings, I have less to grumble about. No more complaints. No more worries. No more asking God why. After all, this is what Lent is all about: focusing on the love and sacrifice of Jesus. Not on our current misery. For now, I will nurse myself to good health and to be strong for ministry again, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Suggestions from Pope Francis on Fasting for Lent:
Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and trust in God.
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.