The Quiet Hope of Quarantine

There’s something about the whole world choosing together to be alone.

Like a kind of permission, or a moment of tag—“It” has finally caught up to you after you tried running so far and so long, and now, tired and exhausted, you have a chance to turn and accept what is, to become It, to keep playing this game, no longer so preoccupied with staying out of everyone else’s reach.

I wake to the still morning, creeping from bed to piping hot coffee that I make too strong and swirl with more than my fair share of cream.

These quarantine days begin with a rhythm: grinding the beans, preparing the pot, pushing the button, and lighting the cinnamon spice cookie candle. It’s a cadence, bringing my heart comfort for a day that will confront me through familiar routines and lack of distraction.

Once the coffee maker sends out its alert, I prepare my mug, wrap myself in a blanket, and go snuggle near the candle to read.

Today, sunlight dresses all the surrounding brick buildings in gold. I can see the light through a sweet little window from here on my couch. I can see the dark shadows that make the light bright. I can see all of it is good.

I crack open the pages of Rachel Held Evans Inspired. I’ve had this little book on my shelf for nearly a year now and not opened its pages. Rachel’s unexpected death last May felt overwhelming and tragic, even though I didn’t have a personal relationship her. I haven’t been ready this year to read her words or to miss her prophetic voice. But during this irrational season, Rachel feels right, the exact voice needed for this moment. She begins,

“Once upon a time, there lived a girl with a magic book…”

Just a few pages in and I stop, surprised to find my eyes stinging with the hint of tears.

The magic book Rachel describes is a book I know well. It’s also a book I’ve limited my contact with this year, and the story of why still hurts.

This year, I have not known how to be with those who call themselves God’s people.

A seminarian, pastor’s kid, and lifelong church-goer, the disconnect has felt unsettling to say the least. Steeples, praise songs, and sermons have been a steady presence in my life. Problematic? Broken? Deeply flawed? Of course, the church has been all of these things too, but for the most part, I have found room for the tension within myself with a central thread of truth: “Look at all of the good the church brings into the world. Look at the way she cares for the hurting and brings the hope of new life.”

But this year, that truth shattered. Because this year, I got wounded and the church did not feel like a place of care; it felt like a place of abandonment. The journey I’ve walked in the last 10 months has altered the course of relationship with friends, professors, church communities, and God himself.

Faith has been a fight, one that has not always left me sure how to read the Bible. Often its words have felt burdened with relationships now changed and religion grown warped and barbed. Sitting with God has hurt. “How do I even unpack for You all that it feels like I have lost? How do I decide whether I want to scream at You or sob in Your arms?”

Here with Rachel, here in the quiet of quarantine, it all catches up with me. I am reminded that this unfolding story of resurrection has not stopped just because I put the book down for a while. I am reminded that the God who flooded the whole earth for the sake of a new beginning might have been willing to flood my whole world as well. And I can call Him wicked, or I can embrace these new depths. For the Bible tells us that after 40 days and 40 nights, and after a time of waiting, the waters will recede. They will not swallow us. They will not swallow me.

And this, I think, is the hope of quarantine.

Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world.  She’s a 30 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day.  For now, she shares her thoughts here.