This year: The meaning those words have is…heavy, transforming, redefining, refining.
We are all emerging from the shadows as different people. We will not even be able to quantify the vast changes to our environments, communities, rules of behavior for a long while. It may left to the history books instead of our own personal narratives…and the number of personal narratives is daunting. You can browse the “socials” for that.
Still, I am attempting to create my personal narrative and my perspective on the collateral damage to the fabric of what once was and what might be in our neighborhood, city, church, region, country and World.
For me, the day to day required a lot of dying to self…sometimes while screaming and kicking with a side of bitter resentment. It required measured thinking without a lot of space to process. I am an introverted extrovert. I need people for energy (which I did not have at all) and yet I need time to write and create and to settle my thoughts (which I did not get much of at all). Options were VERY FEW. When I did get “out,” I panicked “where do I even go?” In the Winter months, I withered and my heart was not pretty. I TREASURED being able to worship with our church body on Sunday mornings–the only time my boys and I saw people all week long. I was very grateful for the safety protocols in place which were annoyances to some but made it possible for us to be a part of worshipping in person which was water to my soul.
Personally, I have sacrificed a lot this year to create a safe environment for our family due to my husband’s chronic illnesses. For a woman who highly values options, spontaneity, and freedom, it was really hard. ***:
- We homeschooled. This was never in my plan until it was the what we discerned was wise for the needs of our boys (one with special needs that struggled mightily with virtual crisis schooling). Along with being a pastor’s wife and running a business–this is one of the 3 big NEVERS that have become a part of my story. The joke is on me:). In July 2020, I found myself reading articles about the 7 philosophies of homeschooling, researching curriculum, securing a God-send of a certified teacher to help me with Math and Language Arts (this deserves a blogpost all to itself). I was signing up for something I did not have a clue how I would follow through on except for the fact that I knew I had to for the sake of my boys.
- We lived life in a virtual bubble. We basically quarantined and masked and socially distanced until we got fully vaccinated. We did not gather with our families for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We did not hug people apart from our 4 person family unit. We did not bend the rules, and even then, there were some “close to us” COVID calls. Our one outing per week was church masked and distanced.
- We experienced the hardest year in ministry ever, and we have had HARD years before. NO ONE is at their best–they are all grieving, so we prayed to have eyes and a heart of empathy and understanding. We grieved and continue to grieve the ripping apart of bodies of Christ and the larger Body with rhetoric and politics and differences of opinion. There are so very many things to grieve about this, and the shrapnel will continue to be unearthed in the coming years. Shepherding hearts is dangerous terrain. We are exhausted.
- We got diagnoses this year that flattened our hearts and left us feeling paralyzed.
- We lived through the most contentious political year of our lives to date and saw people ripped apart relationally by misinformation and rhetoric. I was not prepared for the evil of the human heart to be on such display in so very many ways in our country and our world. From the opinion about race and masks and vaccines at the personal and communal level to policy and leadership on the national level…relationships splintered everywhere. I saw friends of color hurting deeply. I saw poor leadership all around in our partisan government that was more about leveraging power than affecting change for the good of the people. I saw families and close friendships blown apart as members were radicalized politically far left and far right . I was unfriended more times than I can count by those who did not approve of the middle road I sought to walk in the Body of Christ seeking to speak to the examination of the heart. I muted some, as well, because their continual outrage was fueling my heart and mind not to be about shepherding those in need in front of me. (Say NEVER to every comment section) It grieves me as people jump to conclusions and assassinate the character of others so easily in this day of social media.
- We saw people suffer and die with COVID and suffer and die with Cancer and suffer in loneliness and hunger and die apart from a Savior. So much shrapnel.
- We saw our own personal “saviors” get revealed and flattened (ouch and good!)
Those are the cold facts written in list form, but the reality is, this year involved a lot of grief. All of us have experienced personal and collective griefs.
For us, there were losses of what “could have been” like school and school relationships. We lost a whole community of people day in and day out to do life with. Many of those had very different views of COVID and protocols along with it, and that automatically put distance physically and emotionally. We lost rhythms of home and away, of other voices speaking into our kid’s lives and our lives. I lost time alone. My husband lost time alone. I lost time with people. I lost proximity to everyone except for those 3 in my immediate family. Lost proximity was on everyone’s plate the first 2 months of this journey, but ours continued on as I felt there was some new normal orbit (at least for a good swath of my Facebook friend’s highlights).
There was a depth of decision on everything, and most of the time it came down to leaning toward the sober answer of no. I cannot explain the relief I felt two weeks after my final vaccination. I did not realize the heaviness of the anxiety I was carrying about protecting Greg and all of us. It has opened my life to flexibility, and for that, I am so very thankful.
So, how do we walk out of the shadows into the light of the rhythm of this new life? It is not “over” even though there are more options. It is not what it was before and our grief tells us so. It shows when we attempt small talk and bumble all over ourselves. It shows as we have choices again as to what we will do about masks and proximity and travel and school. It shows as many are gone from our churches and we see who is left and welcome those who have come. It shows as we see people face to face who have been very vocal on social media and decide how to interact. It shows as we make decisions about what we will take with us and what we will leave from this 15 month time period.
What is the way forward? It doesn’t look good if we do not do the work of examining our hearts, swallowing our pride and humbling ourselves. It is not “business as usual.” It will require conversation with messy answers instead of relying on assumption. It will require grace and giving the benefit of the doubt. It will require shedding our personas to connect with where others are. It will require time on our knees before a Holy, Kind, Righteous, Gracious, Loving, Just God to see the plank in our own eye before we point out the splinter in another’s eye. It will also require a seeking of Truth and a walking in the freedom and Truth and reality of the Gospel treating others with the same grace that we, who are in Christ, have been given through Christ. The hardest and most important service and work is on this side…our communities depend on it.
***Really hard with caveats that I WILL NOT TAKE FOR-GRANTED–we were able to financially, we did not lose jobs or want for food or supplies, Greg could basically do his job virtually except for speaking on Sunday mornings. So, basic physical and emotional needs of safety were met.