When you first see this title, it might seem insensitive to say that I needed quarantine. This time of isolation was caused by a global health crisis and response that is definitely on a much grander scale than my needs. However, I think this title accurately represents how God can use an international problem to meet us right where we are and hold our hearts at that moment.
I just finished my senior year and graduation is coming up in two weeks instead of almost a month ago. Our prom was canceled, and the last two months of classes shifted online rather than in-person to make memories and gain closure for the high school experience. My mission trip to Africa was canceled, trips I had planned over the summer can’t happen, and the reality is that the beginning of my college experience is still unknown. So how can I say that I needed quarantine when it was the cause of so many losses?
I needed unique circumstances to realize that my heart is held and healed by the God who remains in control of it all, even though that lesson may have come at a hefty price.
Let me share some background info. At the beginning of the year, I packed my schedule to the brim and pushed myself to exhaustion every day with no real sense of refueling. Even though I was spending time on “good” things (school, spending time with friends, staying active, working hard on homework, going to school sporting events, and attempting to fit in family time), all of it combined was no longer “good.” A couple of weeks before quarantine hit my area, I found myself being pushed to tears every day from complete emotional or physical exhaustion. I remember, at one point, telling my mom, “I need it all to stop. Everything has to stop, but I know that could never happen.”
It’s crazy how God turns “that could never happen” to “this is reality.” I also realize that looking back at this time in my life. I had a lot of unprocessed events and burdens that I was carrying. Some I knew I hadn’t come to terms with, and others were under the surface, beyond what I could see in myself. Those burdens included a chronic health condition, scars from toxic relationships, and loss of dreams and goals.
As you read this, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on where your heart was before quarantine began. If it was great, that’s awesome! God still had and has a purpose for this season. If it was a struggle, maybe you found some of the peace at this time as I did. I also encourage you to reflect on what burdens you carry or unprocessed events that can take up physical and emotional energy. You might be surprised at what you find.
As the first weeks of quarantine began, I was at a loss for what my senior year was becoming. A lot of tears and loneliness and asking the question of “why?” filled those days. But there is something powerful in being forced to face struggles within your headspace: Just you and God. Quarantine was an unprecedented time with very few ways to distract yourself from your emotions. There were some tough things about this season. After my Africa trip was canceled and learned we would not be returning to school, I was devastated. I wasn’t thanking God for his goodness at the moment. But over time, God grew a new attitude in my heart.
These are some of the ways I felt God develop strength in my heart:
- Taking joy in the little victories. There are times that the circumstances of life bring us to our knees. Most of us have probably experienced this in the past few months. And when it feels like you have hit rock bottom, you get a better view of what it means to be higher on the mountains, and those are things to celebrate. For example, there were days when eating lunch was the highlight of the day! Or getting through a school day without crying. And finding someone to celebrate those victories with you makes it even better.
- Letting go of things one cry at a time. There are many different kinds of people, and some may not relate to this as much. But for me, at this time, I found strength each time I cried about something. I held it in for so long and held back tears for so long that finally letting them out became recognition of what’s in my heart and the acknowledgment that those emotions are worth being felt. And by finally expressing what I had been carrying, I finally let them go.
- Realizing processing is worth it. There are some things that crying can help but other things that require more in-depth “soul work” to address and find healing. A girl with a busy schedule places to be and goals to achieve can convince herself that doing this type of work isn’t worth it. I came to that conclusion before the quarantine. But the reality is that I needed healing more than I ever realized. We are more equipped to pursue our passions and attend to others when we have addressed whatever is burdening our hearts. And no matter how long you distract yourself or hide, the reality is, there is no lasting replacement for healing. And no true healing can come other than from the Great Physician.
- Finally taking the time to read the Bible and spend time in His Word. I have been a Christian my whole life, but I never found time to spend time in the Word until quarantine happened. It is no coincidence that it was also the time that I felt more peace and healing than I had in a long time. So find a bible reading plan, pick a time of day, get a devotional, team up with a friend, find whatever helps you commit to reading the Bible, and making it a source of rest.
Quarantine was undoubtedly a gift, but why should it take a global pandemic to tend to my emotional needs? To whoever needs to hear this today, it is OK to find healing. It is OK to need healing. It’s an authentic and human quality. Society has been very successful in creating a standard that you must keep going full throttle, 24/7, 365. And if you feel emotions, you can be strong and keep going and add more to your schedule. “Just do more.” And if you’re like me and have bought into that theory long enough, you’ve realized your tank can’t run on empty forever.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea: learning to tend to your soul. It’s essential to see yourself as God’s creation and to respect yourself as such. From a place that recognizes our worth as a daughter of God, we can overflow God’s love to others. Self-care is a thing, and if done with the Guidance of the Holy Spirit, it can renew your peace. One of the most critical steps to self-care that I’ve realized is acceptance. Acknowledge where you are and accept it without judgment, and then you can work to enter that headspace and speak God’s truth into it. But until you face and accept what’s on your heart, you’ll never process it and move forward.
These invaluable life lessons are why I needed to experience quarantine. They’ve been waiting for me all along, but it took something pretty drastic for me to acknowledge them and realize my limitations finally. I hope that in your own life, you can find peace, healing, and rest.
Written By: Meghan Otte