I got COVID-19, and I’ve been quarantined in my room for days. I’ve never felt the depth of Advent like this before.
As soon as I started feeling congested, the wait began.
I started self-quarantining to limit my exposure to other people and scheduled a coronavirus test. Even as my symptoms kept getting worse, I thought it was a head cold I could just ride out.
After three days, I anxiously waited for what I thought for sure would be a negative test result.
I finally got the email. I hurriedly typed in my student ID, waiting to joyously read “negative” and dance into the living room after 5 days in my room. As I read it though, the smile slipped off my face as my brain tried to process what “positive” meant.
Let me say I’m so grateful that my experience with COVID-19 has been a relatively mild one. I’ve experienced congestion, headaches, a sore throat and loss of taste and smell. Even so, I know several brothers and sisters who have had far more serious, some even fatal, encounters with coronavirus.
I’m thankful the Lord has been gracious to me in this case, and I pray for the healing of those fighting this virus all over the world.
Losing the Waiting Game
Finding out I had five more days of quarantine (576 hours) was crushing. Probably because waiting is not really my strong suit, I must confess.
I’m that person who sacrifices their mouth to eat something hot in a hurry, doing that weird “blowing on something after it’s already in your mouth” routine (if you know, you know).
We as the church are currently in a season of waiting called Advent. Advent consists of the four weeks before Christmas as a time of reflection, meditation and waiting. The very nature of Advent is waiting — for Christmas, for the Messiah to come.
Advent started the day before my quarantine, so these past 10 days have been a real life practice in what we’re preaching with Advent.
The Emotions of Waiting
Quarantine has been an emotional rollercoaster I’m thrilled to be getting off soon.
Initially, shock and disappointment swept over me. I definitely shed some tears of sadness. I’ve felt mad, angry that I couldn’t go to church or small group. I felt frustrated by how slowly time seemed to be moving. I felt resigned to my fate, forced to be content within my little room. I’ve restlessly moved from my bed to my desk chair and back again.
On day 7, I knew I only had three days left. I knew that. But that’s not what it felt like.
I’ve felt the tension of waiting — knowing something better is coming, yet feeling frustrated with my current experience.
Advent in 2020
I think that Advent, especially this year, is a lot like my quarantine.
Advent is this exercise in hope, trusting in promises that we don’t yet see fulfilled. It is the sober moments of feeling the grip of darkness, believing still that morning is on the horizon.
This year, 2020, has been incredibly difficult. We’ve experienced isolation, frustration, anger, and deep grief. Tragedies have shattered our hearts, and the frustration of being unable to be together has bubbled up into anxiety and division. And while the year may be coming to a close, the light at the end of the tunnel seems far off.
There’s been a lot of waiting for things to get better, and it’s been hard.
Where is our hope?
Our hope as followers of Jesus is not just in a better tomorrow. Wait, what?
Yes. Advent is not hope that circumstances will change, as wonderful as that would be. It’s not a hope for the day 11 euphoria, when I’ll hug everyone I see.
Advent is a hope that even if day 11 comes, and there is more isolation, more restlessness, more anxiety, the goodness of God will still be true.
Advent says that my experience, while important, is not ultimate; there is truth that exists outside my experience’s ability to confirm it.
It isn’t that our experience doesn’t matter or isn’t valid; the coming of Jesus speaks strongly to the contrary.
When God sent Jesus at Christmas, He became Emmanuel, God with us. We serve a God who understands the angst and pain we’ve felt in 2020 because He’s lived like us. At the cross, He entered into pain unimaginable to pay the wages of our sin — death.
We serve a King who has promised to return, holding the final victory over sin, death and pain in His right hand. It’s because of that hope in Jesus that we can wait, even in hard moments.
Don’t Skip the Line
The temptation is to skip the line, to jump right to celebrating. But when we skip the waiting, our celebration is cheapened.
If you went to the store recently, you may have enjoyed it. But I can assure you that you didn’t celebrate it like I’m going to when I finish my quarantine. That’s because I now know all the days of hoping, of waiting.
One of my favorite songs says it this way:
“Though the winter is long, even richer
The harvest it brings
Though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Your promise for me like a seed,
I believe that my season will come.”
“Seasons” by Hillsong Worship
Our seasons of waiting grow hope in us. So, whether you are in a little room alone for 10 days, or whether you are simply preparing for Christmas this Advent, don’t skip the waiting.
To celebrate well, we have to look pain in the eyes.
We don’t overlook it or ignore it, but we look through it to the ever good, ever faithful King we serve. Only then will our celebration on Christmas morning be true.
I had coronavirus, and while I wouldn’t do quarantine again, it has forced me to wait.
I’ve had to remember that my hope is not simply in a better tomorrow, but in a God who is with me today and returning soon to make all things right.
Thank you so much for reading!
My hope is that you might be encouraged & challenged, and that these pieces might spark life-giving conversations. I would love to hear from you and connect, so shoot me a message on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, or leave a response to this piece.