For the last 10 days, I’ve been isolated in my bedroom during quarantine. It’s the first time I’ve gotten COVID-19, so quarantine has been a new experience for me. My heart dropped when I first tested positive, because it meant I had to miss preaching at Lead the Cause, Dare 2 Share’s annual evangelism-training boot camp for student leaders that was held last week in Denver. I also had to cancel a trip to meet with friends in Minnesota this weekend. But I decided on day #1 of isolation to make the most of my quarantine time.
First, a qualifier: I did not have a debilitating version of Covid. My symptoms were more like a bad cold, not a bad flu. So not all of my lessons will apply to everyone. That said, here are 10 things I learned during my Covid quarantine:
1. There’s a lot you can do in a little space if you’re intentional.
During my full first day in quarantine, I arranged my room into four separate sections: a work space, a sleep space, a workout space, and a pacing space. In the corner of our bedroom, there’s an old padded rocking chair that became my workspace. My daughter brought up some weights and bands for me (and left them at the door), so I could exercise in a corner of our room (which I did every day: chest/triceps one day; back/biceps the next day). Obviously I have my bed for sleeping, as well as watching television. And, finally, there is about a 15-foot-long, narrow space between the wall of my bedroom and our bathroom where I can pace, which I do for hours(?) every day while talking on the phone.
I’m so glad I took time to make these four spaces on my first day of quarantine. It gave me some semblance of organization and normalcy.
2. Life goes on without you.
Thank God for the powerhouse team at Dare 2 Share and the two best youth speakers in the nation, Zane Black and Jerrod Gunter. We’ve been training at Lead the Cause together for years. During a normal week, we split up the speaking sessions so that teenagers get fresh insights from a rotation of three speakers. But with me being sick, Zane and Jerrod had to do all the morning and night general and sessions. They did it so well that the impact of the week was as strong as ever. Jason Lamb, Ben Phillips, Megan Mashek, and the rest of the Dare 2 Share team played crucial roles in making this last week work “Greg-free.”
For me, this was a test, and our team passed with flying colors. If the founder of the ministry has to be there for it to work, the founder has not done his or her job well. Our team improvised, adapted, and overcame, and God did a mighty work as a result.
My prayer for Dare 2 Share is not just that it thrives, but that it continues to thrive long after I’m gone.
So far so good.
3. Prisoners have it way harder than this.
I couldn’t help but think of actual prisoners during this time. I jokingly have been calling my lovely bride “the warden” because she knocks three times on my door, three times a day with food. All we need is a slot through the door to make my prison room complete.
But, throughout this week, I seriously started considering the plight of prisoners who are in isolation every single day. There’s no escape from their cell. Sure, maybe they have yard time or exercise time or chow time outside of their cells, but they are under permanent lockdown for months, years, or life, depending on their crimes and sentences.
Regardless of what they’ve done or what they deserve, it made me think of Jesus’s words in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me. He has chosen me to tell good news to the poor. He sent me to tell prisoners that they are free and to tell the blind that they can see again. He sent me to free those who have been treated badly.”
The Gospel of Jesus must be preached to prisoners. They need the hope of true escape from the bondage of sin and the bars of hopelessness.
4. Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you can’t work.
It’s crazy how much I’ve gotten done this week! Without the interruptions of meetings and driving and everyday-life mayhem, I’ve had the opportunity to just sit and work on stuff. It’s been great. Again, I’m not sick enough that I need to just lie in bed. I’ve been so sick in the past that working was impossible, but this particular strain has been more irritating than debilitating. So I’ve used it as an opportunity to get some important work done.
5. Thank God for technology.
I’m grateful for my smartphone! Having the ability to call co-workers, friends, and ministry partners during this time has been a lifesaver! I’m also grateful for Amazon Prime and Netflix. Technology is not all bad, people. It was kind of fun to binge watch a few things for the first time in a long time.
6. There’s a certain freedom in not setting your alarm.
During quarantine, I’ve purposely avoided setting my wake-up alarm. Now, you’ve got to realize, I’m a creature of habit. The vast majority of the time, my alarm is set for 5 a.m., and I get up like a military man to begin my daily routine (devotions/workout/life). But I purposely refused to set an alarm. After all, I figured that because I was sick, it would be good just to let my body wake up on its own. The result? I’ve been pretty refreshed and feel more energized throughout my day.
7. Proximity matters.
My beautiful wife, amazing daughter, and phenomenal son have been just feet away, but they feel miles away. Not being able to talk to them face to face or reach out and hug them has been a bummer. I’m not even a hugger, and I want to hug them all! I miss my family. Yes, I hear their voices, but I miss seeing them face to face. It’s just not the same being in the same house. I want to be with them!
8. Food is to be appreciated.
When you’re not able to just go to the refrigerator and pantry to get what you want when you want it, you become more grateful for the food that’s brought to you. When my wife knocks those three times a day and leaves my food for me, I really look forward to it. And I’m usually hungry when she does. Instead of grazing all day, I’m looking forward to meals—and grateful for every bite.
P.S. She does bring me carrots in between meals. I love carrots.
9. Quarantine is a great time to write and read books.
As soon as I realized I was going to be locked up for a while, I decided to finalize a rewrite of an old book (Gospelize Your Youth Ministry) and work on chapter outlines for a new one. I’m so glad I did. The writing retreat I had scheduled for late August is going to be a lot more productive now because I have two chapters already written for my new book! Although I don’t have a book contract for the new one yet, I’m praying in faith that God will open that door by this fall.
Quarantine is also a great time to read books. Over the last 10 days, I’ve read one book in full and started another. The new one is a heavy one: Communion with God by John Owen. But I can already tell it’s a book I’m gonna be thankful I read. It’s so old-school English (the dude lived in the 17th century!), and yet so compelling and theologically rich. It’s about the communion we as believers have with the entire Trinity. I’m so grateful I’ve had time to sit down and read theologically deep books during quarantine.
10. The sounds of nature should be more appreciated.
Not to be super corny, but there’s something about the sound of gentle wind and birds chirping that I’ve come to appreciate during my 10 days of quarantine. We have a lot of birds flapping and whistling around our house. And their songs and whistles have just made my day every day. I’m not a bird guy, but I’ve come to appreciate the beautiful sounds they make. All of nature is part of God’s orchestra to sing His glory back to Him!
Anyway, these are my 10 lessons from 10 days in quarantine. I hope I remember them. Because, as of today, I’m set free!