As I was driving to pick up my daughter, Ellen, from school shortly after the North Dakota High School Activities Association ordered high schools to stop holding spring sports and events because of coronavirus concerns, I was listening to President Donald Trump on the radio declaring a national state of emergency.
While I drove and digested both pieces of information, I saw a farmer in a field beside the highway combining his 2019 corn crop. The three strange events seemed like something out of one of the dystopian novels Ellen read when she was younger. But, of course, they weren’t and, instead, are the beginning of the new normal.
During the past seven days – between when I gave Ellen a ride home and as I am writing this column – life has changed drastically. I, along with millions of other Americans, am working from home. My oldest son, who goes to UND, will be taking classes online from his home after spring break and Ellen’s school, like those across North Dakota, is closed indefinitely. The two educational plans could change in a moment’s notice, just as thousands of others have during the past week.
In a word, it’s unnerving. Although I try to be flexible in the way I approach life, knowing that many things are out of my control, I do like to follow a routine and to have at least a general idea of when events will be held. My work calendar for March is filled with events that have been canceled and may not be rescheduled. That means some of stories I had planned to write may never see the light of day. That, personally – and I admit selfishly, because the cancellations are warranted and have much bigger ramifications for others than for me – is frustrating
Scheduling events on my calendar isn’t all work-related, either. I like to pencil in fun events, such as family vacations, dinners and concerts, that I can look forward to in my monthly planning guide.
The unsettled feeling and irritability I'm feeling demonstrates to me that, despite my efforts to control my driven personality, I am not succeeding. It’s a reminder that I need to work harder to live day to day and to find joy in the present, instead of looking forward to future events.
The pandemic also is a reminder that worrying is an exercise in futility. I shake my head when I think back over all of the hours I wasted worrying about things that never happened. Something that I never would have thought, in my wildest dreams, could occur is now a reality.
But my biggest takeaway from the coronavirus pandemic is that my Catholic faith is the pillar of my strength when facing any adversity, from the untimely death of one of my brothers in 1993, to Ellen’s cancer diagnosis in 2008, to my own bouts of clinical depression.
I don’t know how I would have gotten through any of those without my belief that, whatever happens, God is by my side, going through it with me.
I don’t believe that God’s allowance of bad things to occur in my life are evidence of his abandonment of me; He never promised His people that our lives would be free of trials. His promise was that He wouldn’t leave us in the midst of them.
Isaiah 41:10 says “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
In response, I'm sending up prayers of praise to Him, ending with with a grateful "Amen," for that unfailing love He has for us.
As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.