I remember the heavy feeling in my chest when the decision was made to stop holding in-person worship services. I remember that feeling because it continues to sneak up on me even now, weeks later. It’s a feeling of heaviness, like there’s a weight lying across my shoulders. Don’t misunderstand. Sometimes the weight is lifted. Sometimes there’s a lightness. Sometimes there is joy and beauty and grace, because even in the midst of a pandemic, goodness and mercy are still following us all the days of our lives.
When I first read the interview between Scott Berinato (for Harvard Business Review) and leading expert on grief David Kessler, I realized that the heaviness was grief. The weight was the weight of all of the losses I was experiencing, as well as the losses I was fearful of experiencing. I was losing the joy of my church community – at least the up-close joy of being with people I love. I was losing the routine my life centered on – getting my kids to school, helping them with homework, various extracurriculars, and weekly worship with our beloved congregation. And I was fighting fear of losing even more – the kinds of losses that can never be repaired or made right again. I dare not even name those fears here, but I imagine many of you have your own such fears in these strange days.
The loss of normalcy has wreaked havoc on me. Oh, how I love my routines and to-do lists. I can’t even keep track of how many times I’ve forgotten what day of the week it is.
But, one of the most painful revelations to me has been the losses that were necessary. As the world has come crashing down around so many of us, I have realized in an up-close-and-personal way all of my idols that need to come crashing down, too. These things have always needed to be toppled from their high places in my life, but I’ve been pretty good at covering over them or making them not seem like the big deals that they are.
When everything is laid bare, the idols can’t hide anymore. And, when the idols come toppling down from their high places, there is a kind of grief that accompanies that as well. Perhaps that grieving is repentance. At least, I’m beginning to wonder if that is what it is.
I’ve always been a planner. I like to make menus two weeks at a time. I make lists, and set goals, and I work hard to achieve them. Most of the time, I view this as a good thing. But, when the to-do went up in smoke, and the shelves were stripped bare at the grocery store I could no longer run from the truth. Being in control is an idol in my life. In these last few weeks, I have found myself forced to allow it to fall.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot control my life. I do a pretty good job trying to do it most of the time. I make myself believe it most of the time. But, I have never really been in control. When the normalcy is stripped away, when there is no longer a routine, and when there are so many things outside of my control, I am forced to rely on God and on others.
Every day I am having to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and mean it in a way I never needed to before.
Lord, give me today whatever is in store for me today. It might not be on my list. It might not be in my plan. But, I’m trying to trust that what you give me today is enough for today.
I don’t need to hoard resources. I don’t need to over-plan to make up for what’s outside of my control. I need to rely and trust.
As this control idol of mine is being pushed off of its pedestal, I haven’t resisted it, but I have felt shocked by the way it has disrupted my life. That has shown me how much of an idol control has become for me. Apart from it, I have had a hard time moving forward day to day. That difficulty moving forward leads me to the next idol I am grieving and repenting of.
I have been startled by the way it takes so much energy to accomplish so little right now. Reading exhausts me. My mind is too scattered to crochet. Writing takes three or four times as long. The normal parts of my day have all changed. I’m having to learn new ways of doing old things, and in some cases getting rid of old things that don’t fit today’s current situation. There’s been a lot of shedding, growing, and stretching.
But, sometimes, I look back on my day, and it feels like I didn’t get anything done. Or, at least I didn’t get as many things done as I had planned.
I didn’t write a new poem.
I didn’t learn a new skill.
I barely managed to figure out how to help my child log on to his new distance learning platform and answer the phone in my office. I did some other things too, but a lot went unfinished.
Along with the idol of control, I am being confronted by the way I idolize productivity. I – usually completely in my subconscious – measure my days by how many things I accomplished. And, the flip side of that is that I often shame myself for the things that didn’t get finished. In a world where nothing is the same and where normal things seem to take even more time and energy, I’m faced with the choice to live in a constant shame spiral, or to allow the idol of productivity to be pushed off its pedestal and smashed to bits.
I have been leaning into the verse from Psalm 23 that says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Emphasis on makes me because I usually don’t want to do it. Resting. Breathing. Lying down. Letting go of my need to be in constant motion. It’s difficult.
But is good.
I firmly believe that one way God’s goodness and mercy pursue me is by knocking me off my feet when I need it most.
And, oh how I need it now. Maybe you do, too?
As these weeks progress, and as more things become clear and new routines and normalcy are developed, I am certain that more idols will be revealed. More things will need to come crashing down. But for now, in this time of pandemic, being in control and being productive are two idols that are being smashed to bits in my life. Sometimes it feels heavy and suffocating. Other times it is liberating and joyful. Tonight, it simply is.
In the morning, may we find the courage to seek out only that day’s bread. May we find the trust to fall down on the green pastures and allow our souls to be restored and refreshed. And may we find that underneath the ruins of our once-looming idols is a solid foundation, one that will never crumble, and the one that leads to life.