What I’ve Learned From Having Covid-19

It was bound to happen. My son often says, “I think we’re all going to get it eventually.” I had begun to assume he was correct with the highly contagious omicron variant in high transmission. And, last Thursday, despite my fully vaccinated and boosted status, I tested positive for Covid-19. My first thought, a couple of days before, was that it was another cold, or the resurgence of a cold and sinus infection I had a month ago. But by Thursday things were a different. Achy muscles, low grade fever, congestion, a slight cough along with the prior sore throat from sinus drainage – these were the symptoms. It felt prudent to pay attention to them.

It was nearly impossible to find a test. All the test sites in our county were booked up until the following Monday – four days later! Graciously, a colleague dropped off an at home Covid-19 Antigen Self Test, which proved to be both easy to use and “positive”. I wasn’t really surprised.

Still, I had been careful, not only in getting vaccinated but wearing a mask, avoiding large indoor gatherings, keeping social distance when possible, sanitizing, eating at home or only eating take out with very few exceptions for the past two years. I happen to be married to a very cautious and diligent woman who has stressed these precautions in our home for a variety of reasons: a) Her 95 year old mother with whom we have regular contact, b) three grandsons all too young to be vaccinated, and c) a class of 25 first graders half of whom are not currently, and probably will not become, vaccinated. Plus, as a pastor I did not want to become a carrier of the virus to those in my care, nor be rendered unable to respond to needs that may arise. Nonetheless, while it may have been caution that kept me/us virus free for nearly two years, now I had it.

What have I learned? Initial interactions with family, friends and congregants who’ve become aware of my situation have included queries like “how are you doing?” or “what kind of symptoms do you have?”. I want to be honest and transparent in my answers. While my symptoms have been “mostly” mild, they have been real. “It’s not been a picnic”, I replied to my brother’s text. This response is not in search of sympathy, but more from a desire to speak truth. I had the aforementioned achy muscles, low grade fever, cough, and congestion. I also had bouts of gastrointestinal illness, and experienced light headedness to the point of near blackout once. My breathing is a bit compromised and I tire easily. Yet, in comparison to many, my symptoms have been mild. What I have learned in all of this is that my vaccinated status kept me from experiencing something worse. For that I am thankful.

I am disappointed that this pandemic has become so politicized and divisive. I understand the fatigue people feel – I feel it too. I’ve lashed back at those who have dismissed the virus as “nothing more than the flu” by asking if they’ve ever officiated a Covid funeral? That was rather snarky, wasn’t it? But I’ve seen people suffer and die from this pandemic. I’ve seen families lose loved ones, parents bury children and children bury parents. I have learned that one’s response to Covid-19 is personal, directly related to how it has impacted them and their loved ones. I have learned that personal experience often supplants the ability to view things from another’s perspective. It can have the effect of blinders.

I have been on the receiving end of criticism as a pastor for having been too cautious. Some congregants have let me know they don’t like wearing masks. Do you think I do? Some have said in word, and action, that they will not attend so long as masks are expected. Personally I don’t feel asking someone to wear a face mask for an hour in worship is too much of a sacrifice. My wife teaches school in a mask all day long, and our front line workers and medical professionals have been masked, at risk and overworked for going on two years! In the past I may have kept my opinions more to myself, not wanting to rock the boat, or offend anyone. I’ve learned I have a responsibility to speak for public safety and wellness, even if it offends. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Love your neighbor.

I have also been on the receiving end of criticism as a pastor for not always being cautious enough. I have felt policed by those who are scared, watching services online to see if we have unanimous mask compliance. I’ve seen people leave the church because they didn’t agree with our safety procedures – we were too strict or not strict enough. It’s been a “no win” scenario. There were days when I was ready to join the “great resignation”. But I didn’t. And, while a few left, most have stayed, and some new faces have joined us. Most have expressed gratitude for the caution we have taken and leadership I have offered. For that I am thankful. I acknowledge that I’ve made some mistakes, and will likely make a few more, but I have taken seriously the responsibility for looking to the common good of those in my care. I have re-learned that you will never please everyone.

Spending these past days in isolation hasn’t been all that much of a sacrifice for me as an introvert. I am pretty ok with times of solitude. I’ve had plenty of books to read, done quite a bit of writing and study, and, as I began to feel better, tried to treat my quarantine as something of a spiritual retreat. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be glad when it’s over. But the experience has brought me the opportunity for empathy. I’m now part of the club. I have my own Covid-19 story to tell, but that doesn’t preclude me for being open to the stories of others – even those with whom I disagree. I would like to learn how to have meaningful conversation with persons who have a fundamentally different stance about the pandemic and it’s related spillovers. I still find that hard to do. The divide is often so great, it has become harder to find the common ground.

I worry about the church (local and global) and the scars the pandemic will leave. This experience has accelerated many of the changes congregations were already poorly equipped to confront. There’s a great silence from some, and a virtual disappearance from others. I understand what it means to be “ghosted” these days. It’s a hard time to be a pastor. Strangely, however, it has also been a rewarding time to be a pastor. I’m learning (again) to trust that the Lord is in control, that I cannot and should not take responsibility for more than is realistic. I do not believe God will give up on the Bride of Christ.

I pray for our nation. The rise of Christian nationalism is alarming. The seduction of power, regardless which side of the political aisle one aligns with, is pervasive. Public servants who operate as true statesmen and women seem rare. The ugliness of the divide has become local. Lord, have mercy! Yet, I affirm that my residency is first and foremost in the kingdom of God. I have a dual citizenship, on earth and in heaven. So, I’m learning to put America and her future in God’s hands as well.

If you have read this far, you are probably in the minority! You may think I am still running a fever. I assure you I am not. These are merely the expressions and reflections of a seasoned pastor and lifelong Christ follower who has spent the past three days holed up in his home office, with at least two more to go. Thanks for taking the time read my blog. I welcome any comments, critiques or rebuttals.

23 Comments

Filed under COVID-19, Leadership, Ministry, Pastors

23 responses to “What I’ve Learned From Having Covid-19

  1. Ron Lane

    OK Dan, you “did it!”  I was on my “10 am coffee break” with a piece of chocolate cake/brown sugar frosting and a hot cup of coffee sitting at my computer when I saw your Covid Blog come in.  (By the way, at work my 10 am coffee break was taken about 10 am; after 26 years of retirement, my 10 o’clock coffee break is taken usually between 11:30 am and 2:00 pm!). I’ll have you know that I read the entire blog, including the “Read more of this post” without lifting a fork full of the adjacent yummy cake to my mouth, or sipping a bit of coffee – now that “takes the cake” when it comes to my “85 year old concentration”! Just wanted to tell you that I thought your comments and sentiments were “right on”, and know it has to be “hard” to plan and execute the wide variety of your required; or expected duties as senior pastor.  It was especially poignant in your thoughts about officiating at a funeral of one who died from the disease, when other people don’t see eye to eye with your “work” and decisions. Peggy and I marvel on how well you and Daniel have navigated through all of “the icebergs” that have, and continue to be, in your path.  Each person probably has a unique set of thoughts, no two alike, and you work your hardest to please as many as possible.  At our age, we probably err too much on the side of caution, yet we know from experience and stories like yours that no one can guarantee that their actions will steer them 100% clear of the disease.  We’ve had 3 of our 14 immediate family members with some version of it.  Luckily not severe enough to be hospitalized so far.  One (an RN) lost her taste many months ago and still hasn’t got all of it back.  Another senior in high school in Brownsburg (who has kept in-class classes all through this fall and now) had it once, was quarantined twice more, and had a mild case the second time just recently. I’ve rambled, but just wanted you to know I applaud you for sharing your personal “story” with us parishioners, and we are both “with you.” God Bless,  Ron and Peggy  

       

  2. Lois

    My Dad would say,”you hit the nail on the head!”

  3. Dan, I kind of agree with the guy who also appreciated your thoughts while you navigate your way through this current challenge.

    The track on which you are racing is extra muddy with multiple potholes that don’t present themselves to you. You seem to be handling it all quite well.

    Continued prayers from here. DB

  4. Sorry to hear that you are experiencing this ugly disease. Thank you for taking all the precautions as I am convinced that you are having a much lighter case than it could have been. Not to downplay what you are going through. Will pray for a quick and full recovery. MS

  5. Christy Wagner

    I hope you continue to feel better, Pastor Dan. I’m grateful for the precautions you and the Church Council have taken to protect the congregation, like my mother.

  6. Jennie Posey

    Thank you, Dan. Well said. Hope you and Lori are doing well and you are feeling better!

  7. Jerald Hatton

    Dan, thank you for your honest and heartfelt comments! Adrienne and I were saddened to hear that you tested positive for this dreaded virus and grateful that your symptoms have been less severe than some others.
    Your writing about the current, politicized reaction to COVID mirrors our feelings. We sometimes have difficulty just trying to have conversations with people whose perceptions are so different from ours. It has made caring for our friends and neighbors challenging in some cases. I want to believe this is just a ‘phase’ our city/state/nation/world is going thru, but the divides seem to be so deep and broad I am growing less confident they will ever heal.
    We hope you continue to improve in the coming days.

  8. Alberta Ruble

    Dan, read your entire blog and find it worthwhile and easy to relate to. So far we have been spared Covid as we have (and continue to bel) very cautious. I am grateful to read your thoughts and so appreciate everything you, Daniel, the Board, the tech team and the custodial staff have done to help ensure a safe environment. You may not please every person but you can count on a lot of your flock as being most grateful for all the steps that have been taken to provide as safe an experience as possible. I pray for you and your family as you continue to be an example of Christian love. Be well and may you have peace of mind and body.

  9. Daryl & Dot

    Thanks for sharing the info Dan. Please take care!!

  10. Bob Langdon

    Dan, thanks so much for your thoughtful and spot on observations. I pray you will get over those aggravating symptoms soon and be back to your old self. Your comments are so needed in these times. We continue to pray for better days ahead. Thanks for your leadership and insights.

  11. Sharon Tobias

    Well said Pastor Dan. Praying for a quick recovery for you and that your family stays healthy.

  12. Irina Sorrels

    You nailed it Dan,
    Thank you for taking the time to write and share this with us. I hope you get well soon.
    God bless you abundantly!

  13. Mike Goss

    What a thoughtful and caring response to your positive test, Dan. You’ve “passed the test” in meeting the challenges a pastor faces in these difficult times. May you and your family all be healthy soon, and may all who read your post hear it in the loving way it was intended.

    Mike

  14. Mark Slaton

    Loved reading your thoughts. Beth and I have escaped getting the virus so far. Glad you’re getting better.

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