December 6

It’s Not Just You

I just want to put this out there.  IT’S NOT JUST YOU!!  The pandemic, losses, regulations, masks, and isolation are getting to everyone.

EVERYONE IS FEELING THIS

Some of our losses are profound and unmistakable—loss of loved ones, of health, of job and financial security.  Some of them fall lower on the scale of impact—loss of routine, of personal interactions, of emotional security, of changes of scenery and freedom of movement—and we are tempted to dismiss them as minor, or “not as bad as” what others are experiencing.  But whether the impact is as striking as lightening or as subtle as a dripping faucet, it is still there, infiltrating and infecting every breath we take like a dense smog that has settled over the land.


And it is taking its toll on us emotionally.  What started out as an anxiety-producing challenge which we met with the good old American can-do spirit has become a marathon with an ever-distant finish line.  We have done

 what we know how to do.  We have thrown ourselves into overcoming, into solving the problem.  We have extended our hearts to each other in help and comfort.  But the enemy dodges and feints and we find ourselves expending our energies boxing at the wind.  We are getting worn down, and the winter is yet to come.

We are like a family with two parents each working as hard as they can to take care of many children.  When one gets overwhelmed, the other steps in to provide relief.  But what happens when both parents are overwhelmed?  Trying to provide relief costs more and more until both are depleted.

Our external structures have disappeared--getting up in the morning, dressing for work, the commute, seeing our colleagues, coming home to family who has also had a life away from home that day; looking forward to the weekend for fun and time with the family; the beginning and ending of the school year; special gatherings at the holidays.

It’s time to say it out loud:  our energies are depleted.  At the very least, we are each suffering the ennui of the dripping faucet.  Life has shifted underneath us.  Every aspect of life has changed. We are losing our balance.

WHAT A DOWNER!

By this point you may be impatient with this drumbeat of pessimism.  Why would a site dedicated to theology and psychology turn into such a downer? 

Simply to help us stop and acknowledge what we are dealing with.  You may be feeling more irritable, less productive, more anxious, less optimistic.  There may be more tears, shorter fuses, and fewer smiles bubbling up spontaneously. 

And I want you to know IT’S NOT JUST YOU!  I want you to realize that the reason you are feeling “off” is because you are dealing with a real challenge in the midst of other people who are also trying to cope with the challenge day in and day out.  There is something real zapping your emotional energy.

Why is it so important to stop and acknowledge this reality?  We are not the first people to live through extended hardship.  Our hardship is not the greatest ever experienced.  We can think of the Israelites in Egypt for 400 years, or wandering in the desert for 40 more years.  Countries and peoples have endured years of war, or plague, or famine, or oppression.  Are we just being whiners?

IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT

It is important to acknowledge this reality so that we don’t get bogged down in blaming ourselves for not being more cheerful, more productive, more filled with faith, as if it’s all a problem inside of us.  So that we understand that we are all coping with being human in a universal trial.  So that we can be wise about how to live it out.

BUT THERE ARE THINGS YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

This wisdom begins with grieving.  Take some time to be sad for what we have lost.  We, and our children, have lost some of the innocence of thinking that the world would continue as it always has.  We have lost some sense of safety and security due to germs that are lurking everywhere.  Our worlds have shrunk. 

We have lost the freedom to embrace those we love and instead carry around a sense of restraint and guardedness.  We can’t even share smiles with each other.  Perhaps we have been robbed of the ability to spend final moments and say final goodbyes to loved ones.  We and our children will certainly be marked by this experience. 

HOPE ON THE HORIZON

Okay.  Let’s turn the corner.  Let’s turn to hope.  Where is our hope?  How do we hope?  How do we carry hope to others?  Let’s start with creation, which means starting with our Creator God.

When God had created the first human and entered into relationship with him, God still said, “This is not good.  This human needs another human to be with.”  We were created for relationship.  It’s not just a luxury, it’s how we are wired, one way that we reflect the image of God.  The three persons of the Godhead--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--exist in eternal relationship with one another.

So let’s take a deep breath and continue to put energy and creativity into connection, taking special note of those who are alone and lonely. We can continue those creative efforts of the early days of this pandemic—phone calls, video chats, outdoor gatherings, distanced visits, car parades.  Smiles show up in our eyes, even when we are masked.  Smile at everyone you can. 

God also imbued his creation with a certain rhythm, of day and night, of work and rest, of summer and winter, seedtime and harvest.  We can continue to weave a rhythm into our lives, but not just of repeating drudgery. 

God’s rhythm contains rest and change.  Make the Sabbath different from your other days.  Tear your mind away from the daily routine and your eyes from your four walls, and dwell in the presence of your God who is eternal, unchangeable, sovereign, and rich in mercy to all who call upon him.  “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”            I Timothy 1:17

IMITATE YOUR CREATOR

Create things to look forward to as we look forward to the changing seasons, to new growth and harvest.  Have celebrations of the smallest things.  Make new traditions.  Sing, be silly, make others laugh.

Get connected to creation itself.  Go out at night and try to comprehend the vastness of space, the beauty of the stars, the forces of physics which God established to hold it all together.  Feel the warmth of sun on your skin.  Observe the ant.  Collect flowers, leaves, moss, acorns.  Take the time.  Smell the roses.  See the beauty. 

Create beauty around you in the order of your work, your home, and your personal care.  Extend that beauty into the the visual cues of your home, your yard, and your workspace.   Engage all of your senses with the smells of candles or cooking, the touch of soft comforts, the sounds of music, the taste of favorite foods.  Delight in the work of your hands, in art and craft, in music and dance.

And finally, remember God in your own heart.  Remember that although we are all being touched and changed by our times, that these times are only the means by which God is molding us into the image of his Son.  Take hope that God has his good, sovereign purpose in these events and their use in your life.   Commune with your loving God and Father. 

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”  Habukkuk 3:17-19

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