When I first heard about COVID-19, I was in a crowded hospital full of sick patients. Thankfully, I wasn’t one of them and that crowded hospital is actually where I work as an inpatient pharmacist. It was our busiest day of the year, Chinese New Year’s Eve, where everyone and their mother wanted to get home for reunion dinner (often to just be re-admitted a few days later. But that’s another story.)
No one was wearing a mask back then; social distancing hadn’t become a catchphrase and we were all crammed into the pharmacy to help deal with the massive discharges before we’d be let off early to go home. Just business as usual! We had no idea that 3 months later we would be facing a very different situation in a very different world.
Three months in, we are now divided into 4 separate teams with strict instructions to avoid cross-contact, which makes for awkward times when you accidentally bump into someone from another team walking out to the MRT. Hospital protocols are revised on a daily basis, necessary to keep up with the constantly changing situation (we are currently on our 89th revision as I write this). What I personally thought would be over in a few months seems to be around to stay with no foreseeable end in sight.
Being a healthcare worker in the time of COVID-19 has been less dramatic for me compared to my colleagues who are at the true frontlines. I don’t feel like I deserve all the free food, discounts and rounds of applause – but truly, it has humbled me and made me grateful. Grateful that we are better prepared compared to 18 years ago when SARS took its toll not only in the community but among doctors, nurses and first-responders. Grateful to have a strange kind of job security in moments of global crisis (be a pharmacist; it’s great!). Grateful to be able to take the MRT every morning and select my very own green dot to stand on. Grateful for all the prayers made specifically for healthcare workers because I know they have made a huge difference. Above all, I’m grateful for a God who is not taken by surprise by how 2020 has turned out thus far. He offers me solid ground when everywhere else is sinking sand.
I am all sorts of blessed. I don’t want to forget that fact. I also don’t want to go through COVID-19 unaffected, emerging unscathed and unchanged on the other side as if it was all just a bad dream to shrug off. As an introvert comfortable with staying at home, having no dependents and affluent enough to find alternative sources of bubble tea, there’s a real possibility of letting this season simply pass me by with minimal inconvenience. But that is not how I want to live.
The extension of the circuit breaker has been discouraging, to be sure. But since it’s happening, let’s choose to see it as a fresh start. A second chance to make the most of the time that has been given to us, as Frodo did in Lord of the Rings. Maybe you’ve been struggling with the uncertainty of the future and the disappointment of what you thought 2020 was going to be like. Perhaps you’ve found it difficult to sit face to face with God in the silence of your room (because now we can’t say we don’t have time, right?) and it makes you wonder whether you really have a relationship with Him. It could be that, stripped of the busyness of Singaporean life, you’ve found idols you thought long conquered lying just beneath the surface.
I can tick off all the boxes. For in all the empty pockets of time which wait to be filled by anything my heart desires, I confess that my heart does not always desire You, Lord. I’m sorry and I need your help. In that painful confession, I hear His voice lovingly tell me: there’s grace enough for that. He did not come for those who are whole, but for the broken. That’s who He is. And that supersedes everything that I am not.
So as we find ourselves past the halfway mark of the circuit breaker, I want to encourage us not to walk through this time without Jesus, the One who makes us whole. How will we emerge from COVID-19 better than when it first started? Only by His grace empowering us to do something we’ve never done before. Because there has never been a time quite like this. Let’s not waste it.
Let’s not allow this extended circuit breaker to be for nothing, both in the natural and in the spiritual.
Allow God to have His way in you. As we stay in His presence, He will change us from the inside out – beginning with the affections of our heart and ending with Him changing the world through us.
As a pharmacist taking note of our healthcare capacity and drug supplies, I urge you to continue staying at home and being wise. As a fellow disciple on this journey together with you, I say: in those moments at home, which are a gift, let’s stay in His presence.
Melissa has been working as a pharmacist for close to 10 years. She is set to receive her first “long-service award” at a company-sponsored dinner this year. Her second favourite time of the day is lunchtime and largely attributes her long-service award to the variety of good food places near the hospital. She also serves in the Multimedia Ministry, Unlocking the Bible Ministry, and is an assistant care group leader. One word comes to mind when I think of Melissa is faithfulness. She is always a calm and steadying force. In conversation, she gives you her undivided attention, listening with her heart rather than ears.