“Aren’t you afraid they’ll expose you to the virus?”
“Are you crazy?”
The phone calls from friends and family were kind and filled with concern for our wellbeing. My answers at the time? “Sometimes,” and “No.” Riding in the waves of news of the pandemic, I felt assured in my decision to offer two young adult friends of our daughters a place to stay for two weeks while their family members were quarantined at home.
A few days later, I shared my decision with my fellow Restoration Counseling team members on a virtual call. The time together was a gift, a space in community to take a breath from the chaos of COVID-19. When I shared my choice to open our home I felt a familiar urge in my gut to defend myself, a learned behavior from my youth. The urge is real, and so is the presence of my younger self, a courageous fighter for truth and justice and a wrestler with rage and fear of failure.
“Keep going. Your hospitality provides a home for people when they don’t know where they are going.” Their words called my heart to kindness and courage.
Throughout the remainder of the day a picture of large blue doors framed with antiquated stones floated in and out of my thoughts. While on a walking tour of Paris last October, I noticed two blue weathered doors and the words etched just above them, “Hotel Dieu.” The words mean “hospital.” Our bilingual tour guide translated the French words but couldn’t resolve the mystery of the story behind those doors.
Intrigued, I shared my photo with my friend, an Enneagram 8. True to her glory, she investigated the Hotel Dieu and discovered the story of a woman in history who fought for its cause…“to provide spaces of care for the suffering who had nowhere to go.” Her fervor inspired my own. Since that day, I have discovered more stories of women in history who were also committed to its cause. One author referred to this group of historical women as “women in the margins.” Their vulnerability and courage to live, lead and love through their diversities, gifts and weaknesses resonated deeply within me.
One sentence in particular impacted me:
“During the French Revolution, pressure on the hospital was relieved through the creation of several new general hospitals and specialist hospitals, including those for children, women and the mentally ill.” The pressure of the war was relieved by procreating more spaces of care. Hope.
Yes, to all of that.
Yes, to women in the margins feeling the pressure of a pandemic and committed to procreating spaces of care for the suffering, the families, communities and causes we are committed to in spite of our fears.
We have all been affected by the presence of fear during this pandemic. Anxiety, depression, anger and so many other appropriate feelings are totally understandable in response to the shock of an invisible virus and a future wrought with unknowns.
I believe fear is an invitation to feel my humanness and need for empathy and Hope. I felt it rise up in my response to our daughter’s innocent and normal question.
“Can my friend spend the night?” Fear and impatience energized my reaction.
“Where has she been and who has she been with?” Though appropriate questions, the agony of our loss of innocence in the reality of our new normal was too much. Instant silence and tension filled our living room. Our conversation did not go well and we both agreed to wait for another opportunity to talk.
The next morning, she handed me her phone. I read a text from her friend listing names of people she had been with and places she had been. Just underneath that text was another from the night before, “I’ll talk with her when she’s not so bitchy.” I scanned the text a couple of times until my eyes met hers. Filled with remorse, she began to defend her feelings. I stopped her.
“I’m so proud of you.”
“I’m so glad you reached out to a friend when you needed one.”
“You named your truth.”
“Bitchy is a good word to describe how you experienced me because I was. I hope you can forgive me.”
Vulnerability opened the doors of our fears and invited compassion, connection and the cross. Two women living together in the margins of fear and faith.
I’ve heard it said that faith cannot co-exist with fear. Ugh. I beg to differ. My experiences of fear have affirmed my humanness and invited me to the only perfect One whose faithfulness holds us all together in the tension of the unknowns.
Accepting and naming my truth, that I am bitchy and courageously blue allows me to become more of the woman I was made to be, a woman living in the margins together with other women, dependent on Grace and committed to causes of compassionate care in the midst of our fears, diversities and faith.
Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 30 years. She is a mother of 4 children and 1 grandchild. She is a spiritual counselor with Restoration Counseling and her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.