Going for the Test

A masked man wearing shades pointed at my car and beckoned me towards him with his right hand. As I turned in, a huddle of other masked men were waiting, looking at my registration plate. I had set off to the site of an abandoned fairground, and it really did feel like something from a Stephen King novel. I was asked to wind down my window slightly. A surprisingly cheerful Irish accent confirmed my identity and then passed a Covid-19 testing kit through the gap.

This was Tuesday. On Monday evening, a runny nose had become a cough by 8pm and I lost my sense of smell by 1.30am. The coughing grew more violent and I emailed my employer at 5am explaining I would not be attending work. I attempted to procure a Covid test which my employer would require; they were all unavailable ‘due to high demand’, though a place was found at Carlisle Airport testing centre if I was prepared to drive 74.9 miles. As walking to the bathroom was hard enough, I decided this was not a viable option. Re-checking every 20 minutes or so, slots became available at Nelson, on the site of its old fairground. By noon, I was being ushered in.

The test itself was pretty awful: “I’d rather have the virus than do this”, I muttered, as I swabbed my tonsils for ten very long seconds before sticking the same instrument up my nostrils. The young men who managed the site all seemed to be Irish, Spanish or from the south. I wondered if it was some pretty dreadful but well-paid summer job they had acquired in lieu of stewarding all the cancelled music festivals. Swabs bagged and submitted, I drove home and slumped back into bed.

Yesterday I was texted and emailed the result: negative. Never have I been so delighted to have contracted a plain old common cold. I had already emailed the deacons, warning them of a potential ten-day isolation, meetings to cover, track and trace systems to implement. I guiltily recalled the persons with whom I may have got too close without a mask. I calculated how many pupils at school may have to be sent home. I spent another day in bed but was able to get up and eat a simple lunch. My cough was becoming less frequent and I was feeling stronger by the hour. That test was unpleasant, but I’m glad I had it, regardless of the result.

Testing is quite a prevalent theme in scripture. We believers are to test the spirits (1 John 1) but the Lord Himself tests His people. Psalm 17:3 reads

You have tested my heart; you have visited me in the night.

To this, we might all testify. But how many of us can repeat with David the verse’s second part?

You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

The Christian laments his failings, the many secret, invisible things within, which only the Lord’s oft-unpleasant tests can reveal. Yet David concedes just two verses later:

Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip.

Yes, the Lord tests, but He also provides the grace that we might not fail.


Image by pisauikan from Pixabay