A week into the quarantine, I knew something was wrong.
Granted, the whole world was in shock and feeling overwhelmed, yet my amped out thoughts had long since passed “overwhelmed” and were now careening their way toward full-on freak out.
At first I wasn’t sure.
Then it dawned.
Oh no, oh no, oh no…my germ OCD is flaring up!
For someone with an “under control” case of OCD, that’s like realizing you’re neck-deep in quicksand or someone has just thrown a bucket of kerosene on your campfire.
Danger. Warning, Will Robinson. Abort! Abort!
But it was too late—I was frozen in place.
Everything I touched “felt” germy. Every simple task became a life and death battle with COVID-infested danger. For the first 6 weeks of the stay-at-home order, eating and sleeping were pretty much all I could manage, apart from an occasional walk with God in an abandoned parking lot—for fear of crossing paths with anyone else.
Eventually I realized I needed help.
Ironically, though I’d suffered from OCD for decades, I’d never officially sought treatment. Other than a huge OCD flare-up in my late 20s, my primary challenge in my young adulthood was a severe case of clinical depression. Because my depression was constant, and the OCD symptoms came and went, I only ended up getting treatment for depression. Since then, thanks to God teaching me how to stop my worst OCD obsessions mid-thought, my symptoms had remained “mild to moderate” for the past couple decades.
Yet suddenly, once the quarantine started, everything a person with OCD wasn’t supposed to do—think about germs, wash your hands constantly, and avoid any circumstances that sounded remotely dangerous—was exactly what we were being told to do!
This dismantled all my “healthy norms” and sent the OCD part of my brain into NASCAR overdrive. A week or two into the quarantine, I knew I had to seek out treatment or medication—or both.
After so many years without a huge OCD episode, it was beyond humbling to admit I needed help, start taking medication, and begin therapy. Yet even more humbling than that was what I can only call “leader shame.” Because in that moment (and for several weeks afterward) I couldn’t access even one tiny “for such a time as this” pearl of wisdom from God to encourage myself or share with others—even though I’d been learning daily lessons from Him for pretty much my whole life.
Talk about feeling like a failure…
As I watched the endless stream of encouraging speakers online, sharing this or that “helpful tip” for navigating the pandemic, I sat there thinking,
Nope. Nada. Nothing. I have absolutely nothing helpful to say…
This from a girl who utterly delights in empathizing with others and sharing any helpful truths God brings to mind…but suddenly I was just bone dry.
One day in utter exasperation I blurted out,
Lord, what on earth happened to the countless lessons You’ve taught me over the years? Why can’t I access them now, when I need them most?
Almost immediately, I heard His tender, strong voice say…
Your soul is having to learn what your spirit already knows.
Another day, when I was beating myself up for not “sharing” online to encourage others, I sensed Him saying,
Maybe it’s not your turn right now, did you ever think of that?
These simple yet profound answers flooded my heart with peace.
So all those lessons hadn’t disappeared!
They’d just gone dormant for a while, as my soul—under higher pressure circumstances than ever before—learned to translate into experiential knowing (or action) what my spirit already knew.
What a weight of shame and confusion was lifted off my shoulders!
From that point on, I was able to focus on my recovery without feeling like the ninety-pound weakling of the universe. I rested in His arms as He led me step by step through the OCD therapy process. And day by day, my strength increased.
A while later, the organizer of the “Known” conference asked me to do a brief interview about “what God’s teaching you lately.” Right away I thought of the liberating words God had shared with me weeks before.
Your soul is having to learn what your spirit already knows.
So that’s what I shared.
Halfway through the interview, it occurred to me, I’m not the only one who needs to hear this!
Since the pandemic began, we’ve all been stretched to our limits in strange and unprecedented ways—ways we never would have chosen for ourselves. We’ve had to stop our usual activities, start others, be stretched beyond our limits, all while living with the gnawing day-to-day uncertainty of What on earth is gonna happen NEXT?
Losing our usual coping skills can bring up all kinds of self doubt:
- Lord, why can’t I be a better parent when my kids are home 24/7?
- Am I a bad person if having my spouse here all day drives me crazy?
- Why am I having such a tough time trusting You with our finances during the shutdown, Lord?
- I’m so anxious about germs lately, I’m starting to feel like I have OCD…but I don’t!
If by chance that’s how you’re feeling, let me remind you…
All those lessons He’s taught you through the years?
They’re still there.
Sometimes He just needs to install an “upgrade” into our souls of the bedrock truths our spirits already know full well.
Transforming us into the image of Jesus is a lifelong process.
So if it take a few days, weeks, or even months to adjust to a new twist or turn in your journey…don’t beat yourself up.
God’s still working in your heart every bit as much during the disorienting valley days as on the mountaintops.
Sometimes even moreso.
Just be patient and stay with Him in the process…
til your soul catches up with your spirit.
- What area of your life has been hardest hit by the pandemic?
- Where do you feel most shut down or frozen in place?
- Is there an area of growth you feel like you’ve gone backward instead of forward in since the pandemic started?
I’d love for you to share in the comments section what area you’ve been struggling with lately.
It’s surprising-yet-true that when you have the courage to share your challenge, it ends up helping everyone feel more connected and strengthened to hang in there and keep trusting God.
(plus, if you share, we can pray for you…)
Remember…we are stronger together!