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The Effect of the Pandemic on the Anatomy of Pride
The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt…We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities…we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
-C.S. Lewis, Problem of Pain
Accustomed to journaling, exercising, and meeting with friends daily
Expecting to return to work
Entering 3rd year living in Austin, TX
“Well, it looks like we’ll be home together for a while,” I shrugged as Josh and I looked up at each other from our work emails announcing a shutdown due to Covid-19. The danger of covid seemed such a distant thing that I couldn’t help feeling a bit like it was a snow day. We had a full pantry in our two-bedroom apartment and a sweet little 5-month-old baby that loved nothing more than to jab at the toy hanging off of his co-sleeper and to stare into our faces. We could surely make it through the next 2 weeks without breaking a sweat.
Needless to say to anyone, it was longer than 2 weeks. It was difficult. It was painful.
The natural pulls between wanting to do my job well and wanting to mother my new child well were there, but they existed in the same exact space and time as each other all of the time. There was overwhelm and I navigated as though I were feeling around in the dark all of the time. I felt I couldn’t confide with confidence in anyone - not even the dearest of friends - about the experience. So, I felt alone.
The strain of unseen, internal burdens I now carried due to my new parental responsibilities also irritated the underlying relational strain between my husband and I. For much of our marriage up to that point, we could pass through angry moments of misunderstanding and disconnection by passing time with good company - leaving behind the raw feelings of hurt but continuing to carry forward a quiet distrust of one another. Since there were no gatherings to be had during the pandemic, there was no way for us to pass through the anger and sadness to more pleasant feelings. So, we talked and argued and sometimes deepened the anger and sadness and so, I felt alone.
It had already been three years since I got to spend any holidays with my parents and siblings before the pandemic hit and then it seemed impossible to expect to spend any foreseeable holidays with them. I had been feeling the rapidly growing relational distance between my family and I during those three years even though no one expressed it in words. By the time the coronavirus had shut down life as we knew it, the relational gap was as palpable as ice to me - I could almost feel the thick crunch of it in my teeth every time I talked on the phone with any family member. The distance became a glacier during the pandemic and I eventually had to accept that I could only attempt scaling the ice because I couldn’t break through it. So, I felt alone in this way too.
In this long, deadening isolation of the pandemic, I realized that work, friendship, marriage, family, and then - when it came - parenthood had each taken turns at my life’s center stage. For much of my life, I focused on each area of my life the way that a person might fixate on their phone - scrolling, playing, sharing, posting, but, most of all, consuming - with a lot of interest in finding out what each area said about me. I had spent many years hoping to squeeze my sense of life purpose and worth out of these areas, but when I hit a painful roadblock, I learned to seamlessly switch out one for another. In doing so, I was able to dodge the awful truth - that I said I believed that Jesus saved me while doing all I could to prove I was worth something without him on my own - through my life’s work and loved ones, which I had spent much of my life making into idols. In the depths of the pandemic, these very idols turned on me and abandoned me without an explanation.
I nearly drowned in despair in the absence of my idols.
I felt disoriented, desperate, and powerless. For a time, I felt angry about my powerlessness, but there was enough time in the isolation for that bright, hot anger to become a dull, deep ache and then a mournful, fearful, shuttering series of questions: ‘Will no one help me? Does no one see? Am I, actually, nothing at all?’
By the time these questions occurred to me, God had already been threading together some quiet thoughts in my mind. I was brokenhearted, but I had also really digested that there were many respectable, admirable, and lovely ways of living in step with one’s beliefs. I had not realized what a peculiar and narrow vision I adopted for living as a Christian until I was taken out of the familiar and into the unknown. For example, when did being the most seen and enjoyed person factor into my definition of being a Christian woman? When did it become necessary to have my existence and identity as a good Christian woman validated with likes on social media? When did I start caring more about how my relationships were perceived instead of the actual quality of them?
By the time I felt despair, I had also been able to take a clear, hard look at the mechanism of my pride. I had enjoyed protecting my pride by working so hard at serving my idols for a return of good feelings. The moment I began to see that I focused, when convenient, on good feelings and images instead of good truth, it became clear to me what I needed. Real truth - Scripture - and reliance on the Holy Spirit to make the daily, invisible choices that affirmed my love of and belief in that truth. I needed to hone in on the voices of fellow Christians that encouraged me to revisit and depend on that truth instead of giving an ounce of credence towards the loud chatter of others insisting on their own way. I needed most of all to remember that there is a God that does help me, that does see me, and that has given me a worth that runs deeper through me than my DNA. With pride no longer underlying my efforts in work, friendship, marriage, family, and parenthood, I no longer resented the absence of a return - a benefit or an appreciation or esteem - I could simply seek out what is good and what good can be done, even make mistakes while doing so and owning up to those mistakes, just for God’s sake. Seeking the good and seeking to do good as best as I am equipped to has been the work that God has given me and I feel a glorious alignment of my life with my purpose as I follow this simple calling. And I have found that without resentment poisoning the soil of my relationships, there can now be real, healthful growth.
Now that the state of emergency has long since ended, where does that leave me now? What mighty thing has God accomplished through such a senseless time? As for me, I can only say that God has peeled away the heavy layers of self-importance from my heart so that I am free to see and love His creation, give and apologize to other people, forgive, and to let go of my need for prominence in peoples’ lives because I have all I need in Him.
Pregnant with 3rd child
Accustomed to interruptions and fatigue
Finishing 3rd year in Virginia since moving back
Trusting in the provision of God through all things
By Brenda Koch
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