the heart of the sea: a lengthy blog post of a Christian facing COVID-19

Greetings to all in this strange time we find ourselves in. And that’s the proper way to put it, isn’t it? I find myself here.

I am a nurse in the time of COVID-19. While I find discrepancy between the state of the hospitals and the state of the hospitals as told on the news, I acknowledge the anxiety and occasional fears that arise in my mind as I care for patients being tested for the rapidly spreading coronavirus and as I place on my PPE before walking into a tested-positive patient’s room to bring him lunch.

Days prior to the closing of local beaches, my dad and I took an early morning stroll next to the ocean tide. We just started to hear more clearly of the caution lawmakers urged us citizens to take during the virus outbreak. As we walked by the beach, my dad suggested taking turns quoting scripture verses to each other. My thoughts, by my beloved holy Spirit’s guidance, were already on verses from Job regarding the sea as expressed in a song by Nicole Mullen:

“Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean you can only come this far?
And who showed the moon where to hide ’til evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?
Well I know my redeemer lives”

My Redeemer Lives by Nicole C. Mullen

The words are borrowed from Job 38 in which the Lord himself responds to Job and his friends who contemplate Job’s personal tragedy, “Or who shut in the sea with doors,… [and] said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther,…?” It’s a favorite image to me. I loved recently standing next to the water with Dad while placing my psychological weight on the conviction that God made the boundaries for the sea and he is in control.

As we walked, Dad shared his verses. We took turns along the beach often staying near to ocean-themed scripture passages. We delighted in sharing the hopefulness imbedded in God’s word with one another and we left the beach more at peace than when we arrived.

I returned to work from my break this past Friday. My unit started taking patients testing for COVID-19. The first morning of the new protocols I felt waves of anxiety come over me. In a certain moment, when changes seemed perpetually to be made to our personal protective equipment and evidence-based guidelines, I felt in my heart the urge to cry and the desire to give way to the power of the waves. Blessed be the Lord that quickly reminded me of a sea alluding verse Dad and I repeated by the beach. From Psalm 46, “though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea… there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of her. She shall not be moved.” I latched onto the passage as a statement about myself. “God is in the midst of her. She shall not be moved.” She shall not be moved to tears, or to anxieties, or to defeat.

From ages 21 to 23, Father God gave me the fearfullest time of my life when I processed, confronted, and responded to the dying of my mother. I don’t believe there is language that stands up to the task of properly depicting the battle I faced during those years. Through Mom’s death God prepared me for things to come. Haven’t most of us grown-ups faced fears and anxieties that either crushed our faiths or formed them? Maybe both, as is the case for me.

Before my mother’s death, I reflected on these same Psalm 46 reflections when I rode a bus through a rural Asian countryside in the post-apocalyptic-looking scenes of an earthquake. I recall my 19-year-old mind contemplating the internal fortified walls going down and being properly rebuilt within me as I questioned if I cannot trust the ground to remain ground beneath my feet, what can I trust? Do we all experience moments of knowing everywhere we turn is unreliability? I’m a put-myself-in-their-shoes kind of woman. When I saw the earthquake devastation and felt the proceeding aftershocks, I felt afraid and turned my fear-borne questions to God who spoke to me and gave me peace.

The ocean is a reminder to me of trying times I’ve faced. At the beach I think of my mother and the impact that cancer had on her body. At the beach I remember the earthquake remnants. At the beach I very often visualize the tsunami I saw after-effects of in Thailand in 2006. I cringe from being thought a mere hopeless romantic for Christianity. My faith has been tested again and again and, like apostle Peter, whose name means the rock, I find when the Lord asks after the miracle-witnessing crowds leave him unimpressed, “do you also want to leave?,” the response flies out of my mouth, “Lord, to whom else would I go? You have the words of life” (John 6:67-68).

So in facing what I consider, and I suppose you do too, a crisis, in knowing I am one of the members of the healthcare force called on to combat this crisis, I remind myself over and over that I have not been trained to pay my dues to fear. God has given me the understanding that he is near, he is in control of all things, and he longs most all for my love and the steady gaze of my eyes. Any reader of mine might know I cling to the concept that love isn’t love unless it is tested. In the threats of death and virus, love for the Father is refined and reliance on truth is more clearly examined. Scripture tells us sometimes the heavenly Father, “lifts his voice and the earth melts” (Psalm 46:6). I wonder if his voice now calls us to see that he is a ground on which we can stand. He is health. He is our great love for which we could lose all else.

How does one grow readied and steadied in Christ in crisis time? Is it too late to be prepared for tough times? Never. I catch my dad saying sometimes, “I don’t want to be a goody-two-shoes but…” just before he says something in reference to the application of the Bible to practical, every day life. I relate to the essence of that qualifier. Faith is often boiled down to a too-simple way of processing difficulty. This famous untruth, however, conceals the bad-assery of having peace in the midst of a storm. If you currently want to find peace in the storm, read Christ’s words. They’ll instantly restore your soul. If you want to know God – to know if he really is there – speak to him. He’ll respond to you.

I close with words of Christ which are much wiser than my wisdom but hopefully guide some of it. The house built on rock – something unshakeable, reliable, unchanging, healthy.

Matthew 7:24-27
24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

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