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Apr 29, 2022 508 Karen Eberts, USA
Encounter

How Quarantine Changed My Life

As the weeks rolled by with my husband working from home, putting us together 24 hours a day, I found myself once again feeling like a volcano about to erupt…Little did I know then how quarantine would change my life

It was the spring of 2020 and Covid-19 had spread throughout the country and much of the world. It was a time when quarantine changed my life. We were adapting to new phrases like “social distancing,” and “sheltering in place.” And connecting to others was limited to the use of technology. Thus, a friend of mine encouraged me and some other friends to join her for an online Bible study, pandemic-style. After watching sections of a video and reading portions of the book that accompanied it, we’d text our thoughts and comments to one another.

In the first chapter of the study I came across the word “forbearance.” Despite having been a student of Scripture for years, I realized this term was not a part of my lexicon! It was not unfamiliar to me, as I’d come across it throughout the Bible, but the word forbearance seemed better suited to another time in history. The author described this virtue as the ability to hold back one’s power, even if one has the authority to use it, for the greater good that may not be evident to the one seeking relief. She offered a metaphor to explain: imagine God having two arms, both powerful. While stretching out His right arm to exert power, He at times uses his left arm to pull the other hand back, so as to prevent its strength being wielded.

I shared this insight on the group text. One participant responded that “He cares enough to allow me to struggle and find deeper understanding and connection to His heart.” I’d seen this very thing in my life over and over through the years. The 40 years I’d worked in healthcare seemed to parallel the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert. Grumbling and complaining marked each of our respective journeys yet the Lord continued to provide for my needs and those of the Israelites and taught us obedience which resulted in patience, one of the “fruits of the Spirit.”

Over time, patience has become a habit and I rarely express irritation or anger verbally anymore—at least outside the doors of my home! While I had made progress even within my home, I still found it to be the place that triggered my darker angels. Although I was blessed with a good and loving husband, his switch to working from home due to quarantine required an unexpected adjustment to being together 24 hours a day.

As the weeks together wore on, I found myself once again feeling like a volcano about to erupt. I tried to suppress it, but when for what seemed like the hundredth time Dan knocked a full glass of tea, ice cubes and all, onto the end table, I exploded and ran to grab towel. When I later apologized, I remembered what my husband told a representative from the Big Sisters organization who had called for a spousal referral to determine my suitability as a volunteer. In response to my curiosity about the content of their lengthy conversation he replied, “I said lots of nice things about you. They did ask me if I thought you were a patient person. I told them you are very patient…with everyone but me!” As we chuckled together, both recognizing the truth in his statement, I realized that in the area of patience, God isn’t finished with me yet.

Since retiring, I had adopted a routine of walking in the neighborhood each morning. The exercise kept my thoughts focused as I poured out my heart to the Lord each day. I confessed my impatience, asked forgiveness, listed my husband’s good qualities, and thanked God for him. What I couldn’t seem to do was exercise forbearance! I obviously wasn’t exhibiting the dictionary’s definition of “patient self-control, restraint and tolerance!” One morning, after another frustrating day of my husband working from home, I laid it all out as I prayed. “Lord, I have tried every way I know how to pray about this. I surrender to Your work in my life; make me a truly patient person with everyone, even my husband. I’ve done what I can; now I ask You to do in me what I cannot do in myself.”

As the day ended, I happened to glance at the stack of devotionals on the end table. One of the books maybe sixth or seventh from the top caught my eye. I hadn’t opened it in some time, and didn’t even remember what it was titled. Still, I was drawn to it. It was called, “Biblical Homilies,” by Karl Rahner, a noted German theologian. I opened the volume to where a bookmark lay and laughed at the title on the page: “If You Can Put Up With Him, So Can I.”

Fr. Rahner cited 1 Peter 3: 8-9: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.” I read the sermon that followed:

“This harmony and concord, then, is interpreted to mean that we must be united in prayer. No doubt the letter of St. Peter refers to a general disposition to get on with people.” This idea is obvious enough. We know only too well what a trial we are to each other.” (I paused…how did Fr. Rahner know what was going on in my house?!) “We are so different from one another: we have had different experiences, we are of different temperaments, of different origins, we come from different families, we have different talents and different jobs to do—small wonder if it is difficult for us all to be of one mind. We have different views and we understand each other imperfectly. And being so very different from other people we well may grate on them, unconsciously weary them with what we are, what we think, what we do, what we feel. Mutual harmony and comprehension, being of one mind, is difficult for us. Now we can only live together and bear with each other, bear one another’s burdens, if we do our best to be of one mind, if we are self-effacing and self-possessed, if we can hold our tongue even when we are right,” (now I was sure this priest had been peering at me through the window these last weeks!) “if we can let the other man be himself and give him his due, if we refrain from rash judgment and are patient.” (There was that word again!) “Then it becomes possible, at least in a rough and ready way, to be of one mind. We may not achieve empathy together, but we can be of one mind in Christian forbearance,” (FORBEARANCE!!! The word I never examined or considered until a week or so ago!) “each bearing the other’s burden. This means that I bear the burden the other man is to me simply by being himself, because I know I am a burden to him simply by being myself.”

I already knew I couldn’t change anyone but myself, and that didn’t seem to be going so well either! Seeing it spelled out so clearly, as given, brought the pieces together. Dan always worked hard to show me he loved me, despite my frailty. He lived the law of love for me. I looked online to find references to “forbearance” in scripture. Turns out, there were different translations of the word, based on the culture and time when each was compiled—Long-suffering, patience that endures, great-heartedness, even “developing a willingness to stick with things”. My response toward Dan felt like “long-suffering,” while his toward me looked much more like “great-heartedness.” We had found very different ways to incarnate the same virtue.

I remembered the definition of forbearance I’d heard in the bible-study video: the ability to hold back one’s power, even if one has the authority to use it, for the greater good that may not be evident to the one seeking relief. It was the same lesson I’d learned through years of practicing physical therapy—calm responses made greater difference over time. Without taking time to comprehend what was driving a patient’s resistance to treatment, there would be no progress. Once they knew I understood them, my patients’ transformation would begin. Their progress was well worth my extra effort.

I saw now that God was asking me to hold back my power–whether my tongue or my thoughts–for the greater good of our marriage. I had been “seeking relief;” but couldn’t see how it would come. With this realization, quarantine changed my life—by bearing the burden of the one to whom I had promised to be true, in good times and in bad, to love and honor all the days of my life, just as he did for me. How would I practice forbearance? Glancing at a picture of my husband, I knew: the example was right before my eyes.

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Karen Eberts

Karen Eberts is a retired Physical Therapist. She is the mother to two young adults and lives with her husband Dan in Largo, Florida

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