Everyday Christian: Rugby Union, Covid and the respiratory ward

When my roommate was asked by her nurse her vital stats, I was blown away by the fact we are almost exactly the same height and weight. We’d not be out of place as 1 and 3 in the Wallabies line-up, I thought. Except, of course, only for the fact that we’re both patients on the Respiratory Ward at Sydney’s St George Hospital…
Turns out God has bigger plans for us than “the game they play in Heaven”. We’re on His front row, the Spirit’s playing Hooker, and we’re packing down against the Devil and all his schemes.

And we already know the final score! Go, you good thing! It took us a few hours, but after encouragement from a nurse friend to interject if I felt the facts weren’t quite right in the Nurse’s handover, I began with a bit of an explanation of why I was there. Having quizzed thoroughly the two doctors who saw me today, one a very knowledgeable Registrar, the other my consultant specialist, I was assured that, as the Reg said, “There’s no evidence in the literature that there’s any correlation between the Pfizer vaccine and Haemoptysis”. I was thoroughly reassured.

You see last night one of those anti-vaxxers and former Facebook friend crossed the line, suggesting gleefully that my coughing up blood was caused by my having been fully vaccinated. She was promptly blocked.

Look at me! I can’t work because a flight of stairs exhausts me. My lungs are damaged. If you get Covid, you could get long Covid and damage your lungs.

I’d just witnessed a cloud of hospital staff carefully escorting on a hospital bed a person with hair in a messy bun, the type popular in a youthful beachside demographic, to the ICU. It reminded me of the care taken by the White Ladies as they escorted my uncle’s coffin up the aisle of St Luke’s Anglican, Miranda a couple of months ago.

I was in no mood to play with the likes of her.

So I interjected, explained my case history, clarified what I felt needed to be clarified; namely that as I have a necrotising form of Vasculitis and evidence that my already dodgy lungs were playing up again, I wasn’t going to let lung damage thunder over me like the great Jonah Lomu on the burst. That’s why I was here. I then turned to my fellow prop and said, “You know I take this Covid thing very seriously. I want to shake people and say, “Look at me! I can’t work because a flight of stairs exhausts me. My lungs are damaged. If you get Covid, you could get long Covid and damage your lungs. Please just, for your sake and the sake of your family and friends and everyone else out there, give up your right to work for three weeks, knowing that you won’t run the risk of having to give up work forever!”

I then explained how because of my faith in Jesus I was blown away by the peace I had in me since late last year I relinquished my beloved job at Beverly Hills Girls’ teaching SRE. I told my tighthead friend that this had been my dream job, and I thought giving it up would be even worse than the diagnosis that had brought me to that point.

I continued, ” But God flooded my heart with such surprising peace and joy! I couldn’t believe what I felt in that circumstance! And since then God has just continued to bless me as I’ve let go of control over so many things.”
Well, it was then the number three spoke up.

What flowed from her was an outpouring of applied Scripture unlike anything I had witnessed for some time. You know how they describe rappers as “spitting lyrics”? This lady was spitting Scripture! Once a supervisor, after watching me teach said, in a way that continues to humble “Cut you, and you bleed Scripture.”

Well, my new friend was spouting Scripture from every orifice! It was projectiling our of her, excuse the image! How wonderful to pour forth the words of hope and encouragement held in Old and New Testaments. To have such wit and insight when handling the Word that you describe Daniel as “teaching the lions to fast”, to describe the reality of the church as a “Noah’s Ark filled with every kind of filthy animal, but God chose to save each of those filthy things to become part of his Kingdom, so how dare the church kick them out of the Ark?” To be able to quote and apply the idea of Paul in chains to our current situation; that God was using this time, our personal sicknesses and circumstances, for us to be God’s people in God’s place at God’s time; to share our hope and faith to build each other up in Christ. To pray over this ward, the staff and our fellow patients, and our world. To weep in our present sufferings yet rejoice in our future glory.

Oh, that glory! When we will stand before that throne in our new, unbreakable eternal bodies, free of necrotised lung tissue and bad joints and yet undiagnosed chest pain, and rejoice, “You promised this victory and here we are, Lord! Face to your beautiful, glorious, majestic face for eternity!”

As I recount this moment a tear is rolling down my cheek onto my pillow. I came feeling too sick to write, so I didn’t bring a laptop. So I write this, as much of what I post on Facebook, with one finger tapping accusingly at my phone’s screen. But as I write the words, like that tear rolling down to my ear, flow continuously.

It has been another example of God’s mercy and grace towards me that He drilled into my young mind “Seek first His Kingdom”. That’s why I taught SRE. Why teach to the HSC when you can teach to eternity? Why teach Jane Austen when you can teach God’s Word? Why explain the concept, “Before you study history, study the historian”, when you can show how the maker and director of history reveals Himself to us?

So as I’ve realised over the last few months that as I struggle to last a day without a nap, or climb stairs without exhaustion, that unless things radically improve both personally and universally, I might not be able to return to teaching. The energy it takes to provide adequate duty of care, let alone prep and teach multiple lessons a day, seems out of reach.

Plus, with or without a pandemic, schools are notoriously germy places, with snotty, unhygienic kids and teens, and self-sacrificial teachers who “soldier on” when they shouldn’t, for anyone’s sake. I’m immunocompromised, on immunosuppressants. It just doesn’t make sense to go into a petridish environment.

Early on I realised I had to pivot, like many others in the first lockdown. The hope was to write. But as winter descended on my valley home, and smoke cloyed the already moist air, my energy lapsed and my motivation waned. My eyes looked to the hills for my coming hope, but lockdown means the sort of refreshing a beach outlook can give is two k’s too far. Inspiration and motivation waned.

Yet whilst my new team mate and I chatted, laughed, shared Scripture and wisdom and hope, and prayed, God was at work. Pivoting me.

Eternity’s editor had contacted me wanting to use something I wrote last night. “You want to seek first my Kingdom, Jeannine? You want to pivot? Baby, I’ll have you pirouetting!” That’s our God! Switching our tears to laughter, our pain to joy, our sickness and sin to eternal life, and providing me with the inspiration to switch from Rugby metaphors to Ballet ones. Using this broken old hack on a hospital ward to encourage others. Taking my first love, before I first pivoted and put a desire to teach and share the Gospel together in a sort of Old El Paso, “Why can’t we have both” meme, with me spending a quarter of a century in school ministry; taking that love I gave over to Him so I could choose a path where I could seek His Kingdom first, and giving it back again on a platter. Print media. Journalism. Feature writing. Now with bylines sought to honour Him and point to Him and lead people to Him! God, you good “thing”!

So as we lay us down to sleep, buzzing with the Spirit, my friend prayed for rest for us both, but I’ve been pirouetting. One finger tapping a virtual keyboard, to release this overflow of joy and wonder at how God yet again proves He works through ALL things, even a stint on a Respiratory ward during a Covid outbreak, for our good.
Brothers and sisters and Rugby nuts, do the same. Me and my sister, with the Spirit between us hooking the Gilbert back to the Hooperesque breakaway that is Jesus, is setting up good, good things for us all. Life may seem like Marieke Koroibete’s red card when Satan, like the French captain who seemed to think he was on a soccer field, pulled a penalty.

Yet “what man planned for evil, God planned for good”. Joseph first said it. Scripture repeats it over and over again, and God keeps proving it.

Use this time of lockdown to pivot back to God. Repent if you haven’t already, and be saved! Come back if you’re prodigal. Come under His wings, like me at loosehead and my mate at 3. Trust Him. Obey Him. Soak yourself in the Word so you can spit Scripture at Satan like its that rap battle Jesus had in the wilderness.

Jesus wins! Covid will end, because Jesus already won. A better and more satisfying win than the Wallabies beating France with fourteen. It’s like we’re looking forward to winning the Bledisloe and “Bringing Back Bill”, and every other Rugby trophy ever!

Jesus wins! Celebrate it now!


Some prayer points to help

Pray for those in hospital that they might have faith and hope