It’s been a long year this week. I don’t know the origins of this phrase, but I do know that I’ve put it into frequent use recently. It conveys simply and aptly how these last few weeks have felt. It’s been harder to keep track of time. The sounds of rush hour traffic or the preschool children singing their morning song in the church building, no longer remind me of the time of day. My afternoon yoga class is cancelled indefinitely. Our morning family walks no longer culminate in a visit to the coffee shop. But while a lot has changed, not everything has changed.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.– Corrie ten Boom*
This week has not felt like a long year in part because familiar habits have changed. It has also been long, because it has been hard. We’re experiencing loss, so much, in such a short period of time. We are in various stages of grief. Grief doesn’t only come when a loved one dies, but when we experience significant change. It will be different for each of us depending on our life circumstances. You may be experiencing a sudden loss of:
We could add to this list. We didn’t even mention worship, or the loss of things like Lenten soup suppers or coffee hour. Perhaps you were ready to take on our Lenten Fast from Single-Use Plastic, but that’s far from your mind now. Maybe worship has been a primary way you experience God’s grace, and now that’s on pause. Even if we know in our hearts that God remains, it can seem that God is more distant because they way’s we’ve known God are not as available.
I don’t share this list to make us feel sad, or rub in the loss we feel. There is also much that has happened in these weeks that has been beautiful and hopeful. Choirs performing through video conferencing, health care and nursing homes showing up day after day, and the cherry blossoms in full bloom, are just some of examples of amidst these sometimes scary changes.
I write this list and share it because I want us to notice what we’ve lost, notice how we feel and not move to quickly to fix or fill the loss. That can lead to unhealthy coping. We may not get some of these losses back or the healing may come later than we hope. I think about students who sat in their last college class without knowing it would be their last, or elders who hugged their grand little ones and don’t know if they’ll get to do so again.
So be gentle on yourselves, beloved. Notice your wounds, take care of your whole self and let God bless every moment. Would it be the worst thing for your child not to master the lesson of the week, or for your work presentation to be done in front of a messy bookshelf? The Spirit will surely show up at your messy kitchen table, just as surely as through the windows of our sanctuary. Pray often. Sing out loud. Laugh frequently. Play in the dirt. Nap with your favorite pet or pillow. Help a neighbor. Give to church and charity. Smell a flower. Notice the birds. Drink lots of water. And don’t lose hope.
As I watch you and speak with you, it is clear that you have what you need to be the church deployed in these days. You are dropping off food for friends who are isolated, carrying for your families and finding joy in close quarters, singing hymns alongside worship videos and offering help to those most marginalized as you can. Church continues, and I look forward with great anticipation to the day when we can hug each other again in the gathered assembly. I know it is not a matter of if that day will come, but when it will come. In the meantime, I’ll see you soon on a computer screen near you.
Your sister in Christ,
*Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker, and later writer, who worked with her family to hide and help Jews escape Nazi Germany during World War II. She wrote about her experiences and is most famous for her book The Hiding Place. It recounts her family’s experience during the war and in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.