By Mary Wenzl
I am retired, but I add to my monthly income by substituting in the public schools as a Para-educator (Para). The last time I worked was only for a half day on February 26, 2020. I did not know at the time that it would be my last day of work for this school year since I had more days scheduled to work through May 21st. the last school day of the term. I did not receive any assignments for the first week in March, and the 2nd week of March school was out on spring break, meaning no work for me. Then, the Coronovirus 19 (Covid-19) came to our state. I know I was not the only one who was thrown for a loop when Spring Break did not end for the students, but was extended, in several steps, until finally the Lincoln schools announced they would not reopen for the rest of the school term. Parents, and Grandparents like me, had to learn something new called “remote learning.”
The sudden and quick pace of businesses and activities closing down was almost overwhelming at first. We were being hit each day with new announcements of business closings and cancelling of special events. For me, it took 2-3 weeks to really adjust to living with “uncertainty.” Will the kids go back to school this school year? Will I get any more work assignments this term? I am used to losing 3 months of income for the summer break, but will I be able to manage if the break is longer? I also feared for family members and friends getting sick, and possibly even dying.
I attended a small group meeting at my church when the state first started limiting meetings to no more than 10 people. Seven of us attended, spread out at different tables in the room. I remember wondering if any of us would no longer be around when “things returned to normal.” Several of us in the room were in the high risk category of dying should we get sick. At 66 years of age, I have diabetes and asthma, so am not optimistic of escaping with only mild symptoms should I contract Covid -19. I spent several weeks thinking about my own mortality, and whether or not I, and my family, were prepared should the worst happen. I have family members who live outside Nebraska, even in other countries, and some live in areas that have been hit hard by Covid -19. My brother works in an Urgent Care facility as a Physician’s Assistant, in Austin, Texas, so his potential exposure is high.
All the sudden and unexpected changes, and the ongoing uncertainty for the future, have taken a toll on all of us. What has gotten me through this time of world-wide pandemic has been my faith. I have made a conscious choice to choose Faith instead of Fear.
During my childhood, and for many of my adult years, I lived with anxiety. I had to deal with a lot of different life situations which caused me to experience fear, and too many times the fear created unrelenting anxiety. My own mind and thoughts were my worst enemy and attacker. I would constantly ruminate over perceived failings, self doubts over my abilities, my looks, and my relationships. At times I was, literally, incapacitated by fear of the unknown, of uncertainty as to which path to take or choice to make. I suffered from depression for most of my life which was aggravated by anxiety. I longed for a sense of peace, for unconditional acceptance. I just wanted to feel calm inside my mind, and not have to worry so much.
It took a long time for me to find the peace I sought, but now I have it. That peace makes all the difference during this time of uncertainty brought on by a world pandemic. Scripture speaks of the gift of peace, which surpasses all understanding. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.
I believe each of us has to find our own way to understanding and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. My journey to find a way to have complete confidence in God’s ability to meet my needs at any given moment, and during any situation good or bad, has taken me through multiple bible studies; attending church where there has been great Christian teaching; and developing relationships with people who are not afraid to talk about what they believe, and why. Prayer has been essential. The keystone to my developing a calm spirit has been the surrendering of myself, and my will, to Jesus Christ. This has included turning over all my anxiety and fears to Him, trusting that the assurances and promises God has given in His word are true. I’ve also committed my thought life to total dependence on God’s will for me, for my family, friends, and for this world. I cannot seek to control everything if I want peace.
The Serenity Prayer expresses this best:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did this sinful world as it is; not as I would have it.
Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”Reinhold Niebuhr
By viewing my daily life through a lens of dependence on Christ, I have been able to experience calmness and lack of fear in the face of uncertainty. The old me would have been constantly besieged with anxiety, of “what if’s,” and incapacitating fear to the point of not wanting to leave my home during such a time as we are currently experiencing. But learning how to place my anxieties and fears with Jesus, in other words, by placing the safety and security of myself and my loved ones into God’s hands, I am free to find joy in living.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I would listen to others express their fears and anxiety, even terror, but was amazed I was not experiencing that level of anxiety. Had I been the old me, before accepting Christ, I would have felt the same. I have been so grateful for my freedom from my former anxiety.
One of the ways I have found useful in coping with our current crisis situation is to look for the “silver linings” each day. Many positive experiences have appeared along with the negative experiences due to the restrictions on daily life imposed by the pandemic. I call these positive things, “Silver Linings,” borrowing from the expression to “look for the silver lining whenever there is a storm cloud in life.” Noting these “silver linings” during this time of world pandemic has made life more bearable.
For example, I recently heard a newscaster speak about there being a “silver lining” to the new learning environment for children with Autism. The news story highlighted several free online resources that had been developed and offered to parents of Autistic children now learning at home instead of in a classroom. In the interview, the mother of an autistic child said her son was benefiting greatly from these resources. It was a “silver lining” in what otherwise was a trying time brought about by the pandemic. The news is full of positive reports of other events experienced by people world- wide. Large cities around the world are experiencing clear skies, striking reductions in air pollution, and reductions in industrial pollution. These positive events are “silver linings.”
Here is a list of some of the “silver linings” that I have noted myself:
- Lower volume of traffic on the streets. The 5 o’clock rush has been much more pleasant.
- I am having the time and the motivation to do extra cleaning projects around my apartment (some have been waiting literally years for me to get to them, LOL.)
- My days feel more unpressured. I used to feel guilty taking time to read a book, go on a long walk, etc, and now I feel I can take my time with whatever I want to do, without feeling any guilt, because I have nowhere I have to be;
- I have been able to spend time with my children watching the Sunday church service at times that are convenient for them. (The weekly church service is recorded and appears on YouTube.) They make time to watch with me, without feeling rushed. Prior to this, it was difficult to get my adult children to come to church very often because they were too busy, or too tired from working.
- I feel less lonely in my neighborhood. With many of my neighbors either not working during the day, or not being able to go anywhere on the weekends, they are spending more time at home . . . outside. I have met more of the neighbors, had conversations, and enjoyed watching their children play.
- My own family members have been calling me on the phone more often, just to visit. I have even been able to talk to and text my sister in Australia more frequently because she too is spending more time at home. (It is a global pandemic . . . Silver lining.)
- I have learned how to use ZOOM to keep in touch with groups of people I cannot meet with in person. The pandemic has made me more tech savvy.
- I have been able to take free classes on a variety of subjects online that did not exist before or are being offered for free during this crisis period. (Got to try CBS All Access for a whole 30 days, for free, which I would normally not have done.) Many places are offering online entertainment for free. Have you checked out any of the free web sites for large zoos, museums, and other places of interest that normally would cost money to visit, but have set up web cams or daily presentations?
As long as I keep putting my trust in God, I am free to enjoy the “silver linings.” The negatives of the pandemic don’t need to overwhelm me and rob me of my peace. My hope is that you too will pay attention to the “silver linings” in your world and allow God to comfort and support you with His peace that surpasses all understanding.
“Do Not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.“Isaiah 42:10