Out of the Abundance of the Heart – Viral Update

Being People of Substance. Doing Works of Power

You are essential

This month, as the medical facilities began to function again, I decided to go ahead with a surgical procedure on my eyelids. The process made me acutely aware that all changes, no matter how well-intentioned, produce unintended consequences. The sterile new rules meant that I went for pre-op evaluation without my wife. That was odd for me. Judy is generally in charge of remembering what questions to ask and keeping track of what’s to be done when. On arrival, I had to walk across the parking lot to have my temperature taken, then trek back to the empty office. I was taken directly to the exam room, where I waited, alone, for 90 minutes.

The next step was having a Corvid-19 test prior to surgery. I arrived at the Urgent Care facility where I was met at the door by a nurse. She handed me a form to fill in and instructed me to wait outside with the other 9 or ten senior type people who were seated in chairs along the sidewalk. It was a May morning in Tucson. 95 degrees and climbing. It was an hour before my turn came to go inside to the waiting room which was socially distanced down to 10 seats. I’m thinking they surely will find a better way to “help” senior citizens than leaving them out in the desert sun.

On Monday we set off for the surgery center where we met a new challenge. Only the surgical patient is allowed to enter the building. For the next 4 hours, I never saw a human face. All masks, all the time. For that same period, Judy had to either wait in the car, or drive to a Walmart, as the coffee shops were all drive-through only. After the procedure, I was wheeled to a recovery cubicle where I staggered into my street clothes. A masked woman read me instructions. This would have been fine; except I was still obtunded from the anesthesia and didn’t remember a thing she said. She had me sign something, but I couldn’t understand what it was – I hope I didn’t buy anything. She handed me my valuables and showed me to the door. There sat Judy, in the car, motor running. I fell in and we escaped.

Here’s the thing that struck me: In our medical facilities, which tend to be cold and impersonal on a good day, we have created a lonely, sterile environment for the moments in life when we need others the most. If I felt isolated and a bit befuddled, how must it be for people who are experiencing life-threatening and even life-ending illnesses without a familiar face, a familiar voice, or a comforting touch. We have to do better.

In fact, for we who believe in divine healing, have we somehow abdicated our role in the lives of our people? The call to lay hands on the sick hasn’t changed because of Corvid-19. The instruction for the sick to call for the elders to come to them and anoint them with oil is still Bible 101. If there was ever a time when a person needs the comfort, the prayers, and the counsel of his or her pastor, it would be when struck with a scourge such as this. We have to figure out a way to obey God and still manage to get along with the health care industry. We have to do better.

I went to church last Sunday for the first time since March. What an odd, glorious, and irritating experience. It was good to be in the congregation of the saints and to sing songs of corporate worship. It was good to see humans in person, though not touching them was very difficult. After service, a young man whom I hadn’t seen in several years came over to me. He excitedly extended his hand. Thoughts rushed through my mind: Dare I shake? Doesn’t he know the protocol? Then a quieter voice: I’m not sick, so I’m no danger to him. I won’t get sick, so he is no danger to me. His appearance tells me he needs a sign of acceptance. He is reaching out to his pastor. I shook his hand.

Somebody Said: Something in our nature cries out to be loved by another. Isolation is devastating to the human psyche. That is why solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments. Gary Chapman

Scripture Reading: Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT)

A lack of genuine, human contact is detrimental. There is now such a thing as “Zoom meeting fatigue,” caused by the extra stress of doing online meetings. I feel the same way about church online. It’s handy as long as the technology works. It’s hard to stay focused because the dog wants attention. It doesn’t’ provide the re-vitalizing effect of coffee and chit-chat and hugs and laughter. No matter how great I sing, it’s not the same as show great we sing. Increased effort, decreased return.

Here’s the point: Maybe we can take a step back and think through some of the arrangements we made or submitted to in the first panic-driven moments of this demonic viral assault. In our Christian desire to be kind and loving, I believe we got pushed to the curb. We allowed ourselves to be classified as “non-essential.” As an old drunk, I fully understand why liquor stores were deemed essential. As a Christian, I believe the availability of caring ministry is at least as essential as Jack Daniels.

Pastor Virgil Stokes

Check out this interview for an inspiring testimony of how the Word of God changes lives. Joyce moved from a cell to a pulpit by learning who she is in Christ. So can you. Visit www.pastorvirgil.com for lots of other good stuff.

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