Guest post by Dr. Maxie Dunnam, Minister-at-Large
At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, nine people gathered for an interment service for my brother-in-law who died the past Saturday. Jerry and I could not be there because the virus has limited all of our coming and going. But we were there in spirit, in that country cemetery where my mother and father, a brother and a sister are buried, and where Jerry and I will one day be buried. She and I gathered at 10:15 in the area of our home where we pray and share our daily devotion. We read Psalm 103, which begins,
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, (vs. 1-4)
What better way to link up with a few family members who are burying a loved one, 200 miles away, than being present in spirit, and praising this God who heals, forgives and redeems our lives from the pit?
So, Jerry and I began to “bless the Lord” by singing some of the gospel songs I grew up singing. We shared memories of Momma and Daddy sitting on the porch singing, I’ll Meet You in the Morning. And, in that time around 10:30, we sang two of those favorite gospel songs, Shall We Gather at the River and When We All Get to Heaven. It was a blessed time, singing and praising the Lord, recalling “precious memories” long after the small group, led by a faithful Methodist minister, had committed Hardee to his “resting place.”
My sister and her husband have been living in a life care community. We did not know until after the service that, while neither of them had this Coronavirus, she was not allowed to attend the burial of her husband. Yet, we know she was also there in spirit.
Late that afternoon I received a note from a friend inquiring about my sister. I was obviously more emotionally upset than I sensed because I closed my note responding to my friend with a word I can’t remember ever using before, “Confound this virus!”
I had pressed “Send” on my computer before it hit me. Though I have never used that term in that way, when I was growing up, I often heard it. People would exclaim, “Confound you!” or “Confound it!” It was confusing to me. The “Confound it” was an emotional, sometimes angry, response to a frustrating situation not involving anyone else. The “Confound him” was an expression of anger or condemnation in talking about a person who had wronged or hurt the speaker. It always sounded to me like a curse word being used by a person who might not have the freedom to say “Damn you.”
So what was I saying? “Confound this virus!” For sure I get emotionally stirred up with this virus, and sometimes I feel anger, but I have not yet cursed it. My most common feeling is that I am confounded by it. I don’t mean it is cursing me, though on second thought, our cussing adversary, Satan, is seeking to use it to “damn us.”
The normal use of the word confound is puzzled, taken aback, or baffled. I think the synonym for confounded that fits my feelings is a not-so-often-used one, I feel “swamped.”
That’s the feeling I think most of us are dealing with — we feel swamped, and we are not sure what is swamping us. It hasn’t yet hit us in a personal way of physical suffering or the death of a loved one, but we feel a deluge is coming. We can’t name all the feelings we have; we are swamped.
This word from Psalm 40 is helping me deal with my being “swamped.”
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:2, NIV)
Many translations have it, “He lifted me out of the miry pit.” Mire is a synonym for swamp. So I’m holding this psalm in my mind and heart. Confound this virus! My trust in the Lord is not going to allow it to confound me.