When the first whispers of the coronavirus started reaching the United States, I wasn’t concerned. My freshman year of college, we’d had this same kind of panic about Ebola, and that had never really come to the States in big numbers. I figured this would be more of the same: A distant disease that affected many in other countries, but never really got to us. It wasn’t that I was arrogant about it or that I didn’t have sympathy for those suffering from the coronavirus in China, but rather that I felt safe.
Obviously, I was wrong.
The first time I really got stressed about the possibility of the coronavirus reaching us was in early March. My wife Jessica and I were starting to make plans for Spring Break. She’s in the college choir, and they have their tour every year during Spring Break, but this year the trip was two weeks earlier, leaving her with a free Spring Break for the first time in her college career. We had planned to celebrate by taking a vacation. And suddenly, I began to wonder if that might not happen after all.
While she was away on her tour, reports started getting bad. More and more cases were flooding the U.S. I started washing my hands religiously. This virus was not going to catch me. And when the CBC choir returned from their tour two days early because of the potential threat of the virus, I was just glad to have my wife back–but still concerned about what this meant for our future.
Because the virus had affected us now, when before I was certain that it would be something I heard about, but never experienced directly.
The next week, both the college and my office went home based down. Now both of us were working from home, while Jessica was to do the rest of her semester online. Within a week or two, the whole country was in quarantine.
I never could’ve predicted something like this. Who could’ve? It was a bursting of the artificial bubble of safety I and so many others had built around our country. This was something that happened “over there,” in some far-off country, not here. Only now it was here, and we had to adjust.
One of the things I’ve missed most is my church family. Livestreamed services on Sunday mornings and with the youth on Wednesday night have helped, but it’s not the same as fellowshipping in person, as getting handshakes and hugs from everyone. Suddenly, it was all different. Not just church–my wife and I couldn’t keep our regular Friday lunch dates (although we have managed by getting takeout and eating at home, it’s just not quite the same as taking her out to lunch). We can’t go to the gym. Or favorite grocery store has restrictions. A lot of the “rights”– that we now realize have been privileges all along – are restricted.
But if there has been an upside to all this mess, to me it has been that for most of the month of March and the entire month of April, I have been able to be home all day with my wife. We’ve only been married for six months, and with her busy school schedule in particular, we sometimes get no more than six hours a day together.
But quarantined together, we have been given a blessing in disguise–the opportunity to spend some of these early months of our marriage free of distractions, free of the busyness of everyday life. We’ve been granted the opportunity to slow down. And I have seen our relationship strengthened because of it.
Yes, there are days when it feels like we’ll die of boredom. Yes, there are days when all I want is to go out to eat and sit in a booth instead of on the couch or go to the gym and work out with equipment, rather than making do with freeform exercise in the living room.
And especially, there are days that I long to see my church family again, rather than experience the worship over a screen. This quarantine has taught me valuable lessons about not taking things for granted.
But it has also given me time with my wife. And for that, in a strange way, I’m thankful. Maybe God is using this time of isolation and quarantine to tell us to slow down. We’ve become such a busy society. Maybe all of this is so that we can turn our attention back to God and back to the other things that really matter, like our families and loved ones.
In some places, quarantine is nearly over. Within a month or two, we might be back to “normal” or something approaching it. Other places may take longer. But whatever happens, I hope I will not forget the blessing in disguise that has been these few months of refocusing.
And I hope you won’t either.