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  • Katie Smith

Your days are numbered

Watching all my boys hooked up to medical equipment as newborns and toddlers became a passport I had punched enough times to know what to expect. Even if the expectations weren't preferable, they became slightly (if only just slightly) easier with each son.

When it comes to most parents, fight will conquer flight as far as it depends on aiding their young. However, all strength of character shifts when the parent becomes the patient. Roles are reversed, weaknesses are highlighted, and a new door is opened to see where the rubber actually meets the road.

I've been taken back to a world of medical alarms, needles, and blood pressure cuffs, only this time I don't get to be the strong caretaker. I don't get to pull up my bootstraps and show the staff, I got this, I've been here in the past. No. COVID doesn't just choose the weak or strong to wrestle, COVID isn't in charge. God runs this superbug show. It's like that old line from the movie Twister, when Helen Hunt frantically exclaims, "You've never seen it miss this house and that house and come after you!"

That's what COVID felt like to me when I realized I was being rushed to the hospital on day 11 of my illness. It didn't have to turn south on me, but it did. Others had recovered fine, others fared far worse. We can sit and debate all day long what science and statistics say about this crazy virus, but in the end, we are not in control of the direction of our statistics. Variants, immunities, and twisters appear from nowhere, proving we cannot eradicate illness or death, but we can learn to accurately number those days before death.

Who can comprehend the power of your anger?

Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,

so that we may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:11-12)

Numbering correctly aids in our mental sanity. You count-down for kids to get them to hold onto something hard for five more seconds. You give a patient a timeframe they'll have to sit in the MRI machine to avoid perpetual panic. Without a timeline, the long tunnel of life seems endless, and we teeter on usurping our days with stupidity or constant trepidation.

Tight tunnels are my arch nemesis. We all have those scenarios that present us with anxiety, but there will also be unavoidable moments in life we must face those fears. When I had to go into a CT scan after arriving at the hospital this week, stiff peaks of panic began to surface in the sides of my masked mouth. I knew it wasn't as long and deep as an MRI machine, but when the nurse neglected to give me any sort of number system to focus on finishing, I could feel the walls caving and the temperature rising.

Thus, fear rises from the unknown abyss. The feeling of being stuck. The only thing that kept me calm in that moment was praying, and not wanting to start the dreaded process over again. People don't want to discuss "eternity" because that can feel like an endless MRI tunnel talk. Not knowing how long I'd have to stay isolated in this hospital elicited those same sparks of dread. Yet, I had been down this road with my boys enough times to have some training. God doesn't leave us alone in the dark tunnels of life; He loves us enough to prepare us.

Paradoxically, when you experience that everything can change in an instant, you begin to change your counting system in an instant. You aren't looking to a number system that gives you more time in the dark tunnel of life, but one that opens you up to an eternally lit tunnel without illness or isolation.

He brought me out into a spacious place;

he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:19)

Instead of counting down your days of isolation, note the potential for freedom from all the angst and fear in this tunnel-vision world. As I stated in my book, Antidote to Anxiety, "The walls of isolation around us don’t determine our hope. Rather, what we do during those days behind walls determines the outcome." Many prisoners and patients have felt stronger because of their weakness than when they were chasing fearful fantasies on the world's counting-system. Let God teach you to number correctly so that wisdom and peace will reign in your life regardless of your unexpected twisters and tunnels.

~Carefully Careless

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