Virus, Illness, Faith and the Healing Spirit
I am curious about my hesitation to write, as so many are during this COVID-19 pandemic…
I have certainly benefitted from the messages of others about how to care for ourselves, through such helpful reminders as physical distancing, enjoying take-out food and connecting via social technologies. I am also in awe of how neighbors, friends and strangers are helping others, especially those who are most vulnerable and at risk with physical, emotional and mental hardships. All of this is soooo good and inspiring, as it enhances both our sense of belonging and our courage (both basic human needs).
Yet, something has been missing for me…
In the unavoidable reality of the coronavirus, there is another reality – the serious non-COVID illnesses of members of my own family and friends, and the tragedies of non-COVID deaths, such as those recently in Nova Scotia.
How do we hold these ‘close-to-home’ realities, while at the same time trying to embrace a global pandemic? How do we find ways to cope with both? And how do we find peace in the midst of such deeply emotional challenges all around us?
Wisdom comes to us in many ways
One of the things I enjoy is reading my horoscope in the newspaper, more to satisfy my curiosity than for the importance of its message. However, the content of April 18th resonated strongly for me, as it spoke to my current thoughts and feelings:
Avoiding situations that make you uncomfortable will lead to more significant problems. Face personal and emotional situations head-on and find out where you stand and how best to move forward.
The same day, I also saw this message on Facebook:
FEAR: Forget Everything and Run –or– Face Everything and Rise.
What a “coincidence” to be presented with two similar messages so closely together. And what I heard in them was this: that I have a choice. I can run with avoidance from that which I find uncomfortable. Or I can face reality, know myself and move forward to meet life as it currently is – while finding ways to cope and have the peace and contentment I desire within.
The realities we face… and our responses
As I look at my own life, here are some of the realities I am aware of right now. As a wife and friend, I feel challenged daily as my elderly husband copes with dementia, and other family and friends experience various illnesses. As a Canadian, I was stunned by the tragic shootings ‘down East’. And as a human being, I feel both shocked and numbed at times by the worldwide effects of COVID-19, and how life has changed in the past two months.
Yet beyond all these are my seemingly surprising responses. How is it that I am also feeling calmer than what I believe these situations warrant? Why am I feeling more connection and belonging as I live with more isolation? How is it that my meditations feel deeper and more expansive… I am adapting so easily to working at home… and I’m even willing to explore and use what are for me new technologies (like Zoom, to work with clients online)?
In a sermon on April 19th, the minister at my church spoke of the resurrection of Jesus and the response of his disciple Thomas. “Doubting Thomas”, as he is sometimes known, had to inspect Jesus’ wounds after the resurrection, so as to satisfy his own need for physical proof of the pain and death his teacher had experienced.
As I write this, I too am facing some doubts. I question why my responses seem so unusual. Am I denying the reality of this pandemic and its devastating effects? Am I avoiding the illnesses of my husband, family and friends, or the tragedies of people in my country? These doubts are pushing me to look more deeply at myself and the “messages” I wrote about above.
How can we hold both reality, and faith?
Living with this pandemic and these illnesses has helped me meet my horoscope’s call to ‘find out where I stand.’ And what I’ve discovered is that I stand on firm ground – a place which calls me to both understand and experience pain and suffering AND welcome the invitation to look beyond them, in order to move forward.
In my minister’s message and my own daily reflections, I sense we are being called to ‘something more.’ You might call it a deeper form of trust, or faith, a higher realm of understanding beyond the physical body, to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I wondered about using the word “Holy” there, as my intention is to neither expound on religion nor exclude those who may be spiritual but not religious. The reason I use it is that this word actually comes from an old English word meaning health, happiness and wholeness. “Healing” comes from the same root, and means to make sound or whole, to restore to health. And that is what I believe Jesus experienced as he was resurrected and then ascended, leaving for us the sacred, holy and healing Spirit to rely upon.
What I see with this physical coronavirus, and the other illnesses and tragedies in my life, IS dispiriting. Yet as a wife, friend and counsellor, I also know that I must ground myself in that world to be helpful to others. To do so, I need a faith which discerns beyond the visible; that takes me deeper into my soul, and helps me touch the sacredness of my being. And it is in the joining of these two realities that I find peace.
In my prayers, my meditations, and my conversations with others, I experience both sorrow, and joy, as I touch the soul and sacredness of others. And these also help guide me to find love, support and caring in connection with my community.
What I’ve come to realize is that NO — I am not avoiding the realities of the present moment. A part of me does feel shaken at times. But I also feel an inner trust and knowing which goes beyond the visible. A faith that brings light into my darkness, and invites me to appreciate how bound together we are in our communities, our countries and our humanity as a whole.
As we walk this journey together, with whatever you are facing in your life right now, I offer you my hand. Walk with me awhile, as we move from disbelief to curiosity… from doubt to faith… and from shock to peace.
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