Coronavirus

COVID-19 Days: An Exodus of the Heart

By Adrienne Gross

It’s an undeniable human tendency to get caught up in one’s current reality, a tendency as old as time.  We easily forget the joys and victories, the struggles and lessons we’ve had in the past, focusing instead on our current circumstances and allowing our limited vision to color the way we see the future.  This was me in the first days that the coronavirus was wrapping its skeletal fingers around America. All I could focus on at first was the freedom I was losing, or that I perceived that I was losing. All I could mourn was a loss of convenience and comfort, a truly selfish mindset.

But in the midst of my selfishness, the Lord was good to me.  He has reminded me many times in these weeks of the scripture that tells us that He knows “that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). No other god understands the human struggle the way that ours does, because He made Himself one of us and entered into our struggles.  In the person of Jesus Christ, he adopted them as His own. Therefore, our selfish tendencies, our petty preferences, our discomfort with the unknown are no surprise to HIm. In those first days when I was hiding in my room and grieving my loss of freedom, He spoke to me and told me that it was okay.  He was patient with my pity-party and was willing to wait until I was ready to hear from Him. He didn’t hurry me along and tell me to get over myself like the multitude of judgmental voices on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. He didn’t shove a meme in my face to sardonically criticize my human reaction.

No.  When I emerged from my self-indulgence, he drove me to His word and offered me a connection to the world, to the past, that I know I would never have seen otherwise.  Weeks before the novel coronavirus became a true threat to America, when so many of us believed it was something that would stay on the other side of the world and never alter our lives, my pastor asked me to write up a sermon summary for an upcoming Sunday service.  The story was a well-known Old Testament account, even by secular standards–the story of Moses and his leadership of the Exodus from Egypt.

Moses’ life story and his part in the Israelites’ deliverance is so grand and visual that it has been made into multiple motion pictures and cartoon series.  It’s the story of a man who gains power, loses it, then gains it again. It’s the story of a noble people rescued from an evil ruler. It’s similar to Greek and Roman mythology in its inclusion of a powerful deity who exercises His power in benevolent, terrifying, and astonishing ways–from the gentle guidance of Baby Moses in a basket through the Nile into the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter, to the plagues upon Egypt, to the parting of the Red Sea and the food that fell from the skies to feed the Israelites in the desert.

Most of us have heard these stories so many times that they begin to sound like folklore, like an exaggerated example simply meant to entertain us at the very least, or at the very best, to teach Believers about God’s character and power.  But as I watched the news change in our world and country from day to day regarding the strength and breadth and reality of the virus, I began to see parallels to the Exodus that I’d never noticed before. 

The Bible tells us at the beginning of the book of Exodus that the Israelites multiplied and grew in number throughout Egypt.  They became slaves–oppressed and exploited by Pharaoh for Egypt’s prosperity. They cried out to God to deliver them, which He did, but not immediately.  First the Israelites had to watch as the only home they knew was decimated by plagues, one after the other, and they were called to stand firm and trust God through the carnage. 

When the worst was over and Moses led them out of Egypt, life did not return to normal. They traveled the desert for 40 years, making their way toward Canaan, the new home that God had promised them, but their journey was fraught with complaints and forgetfulness.  They mourned what they had lost, even though what they had lost had long since robbed them of joy and meaning–the predictable work patterns; the food they could count on eating every day; the familiar structure of their homes and communities.

Many of that generation did not see the promised land–they died in the desert, along with their faithful leader Moses, who, though he served as their mortal deliverer, was eventually a victim of his own impatience, his own desire for more.  The generation that populated Canaan and was given a new life, was younger and unaware of the depth of struggle their parents faced–the uncertainties, the fear, the strain and loss. They were given a new chance, an opportunity to create a legacy built on gratitude and reverence for God and His provision.  They were blessed with an abundance of resources and a unity based on a shared experience (Exodus 3-20).

During those first scary days in March, I understood that this was what God was waiting to show me when I was resisting the change in my reality–that He sees all of eternity at the same time, that the mighty works He has done in the past are the very same as the work He is doing in the present.  And friend, here we are, modern-day Israelites in our own exodus of the heart. Do you see it? An oppressed people–we were consumed with work and achievement and predictable schedules, focused on our selfish struggles to the point that we couldn’t see the hurt around us, and if we could, we buried our heads in our own sand and continued our toil because we were too exhausted to help anyone else. 

And we cried out for it to stop (at least I remember that I did after a terribly hectic 2019)–this busy season of extracurriculars, this project at work, this semester of tough classes, this long pregnancy–we internally begged for it all to go away so that we would just have time to be, to breathe. We put off opening our Bibles and listening to the Lord every day because there was just too much to do, and instead complained about our lives to our friends and families and Facebook.

Then the virus hit, the modern-day plague set in across our cities and in our towns, in our streets and across our fields, and we were led into an unknown, a wilderness of change.  Yet, we are being called to wait, to persevere, to stand firm amidst it all. We who say we know this same God of Israel are called to trust Him and demonstrate our faith, not in painting our doorposts with the literal blood of an unblemished lamb, but in drenching our hearts and minds in the saving power of our Messiah.  Only in this way can we venture into the unknown ahead of us, the desert that may stretch out before us for weeks or months, knowing that there is a promise ahead. We will arrive there, to something new, and I hope it will be an awakening to the rich life that God has meant for us to have all along–one built again on His goodness and provision.  I hope this will be the event that leads this modern generation into the arms of Jesus, our steadfast and loving Deliverer, who can redeem all the lost years in the desert and the sorrow and grief endured along the way.

But let it us not wander with querulous hearts of contempt that forget the oppressive state of our former selves.  Let us press on with purpose, with hearts and minds that have meditated on God’s provision, let us ask for eyes and ears to witness testimonies of His goodness during these delicate days.  Let us look around at those who are trudging this wilderness with us, those farther ahead on the path and those who are just now entering into the worst weeks. Let’s choose to release the frantic and complicated burdens of the days before Covid-19, so that we can travel without baggage into a new reality of peace and simple reliance on Him.

We have a better Moses, a better Deliverer–one Who is patient with our bad attitudes, Who waits for us to listen, Who is righteous in His reactions, Who knows exactly where He is taking us.  Friend, let us decide to leave Egypt, with its forced and self-induced behaviors and modes behind, once and for all. The promise of something new is ahead of us–a new life flowing with milk, bread, and hopefully aisles and aisles of toilet paper.

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Adrienne Gross is a writer living in North Carolina with her husband Bryan, an her three children. She is a lover of adventure, fitness, good food and good conversation with the people she loves.

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