Sometimes days are full of those things that remind me we are all in this together, we have gifts to offer one another, and a majority of the time we offer those gifts with generosity and kindness and the world is better for it. And then there are the other days. Those days when the number of virus cases have gone back up because we’re tired of the precautions; when fatigue over the issues of race sets in and we start to tire of the long-term work it’s going to take to change systems. Days when, I don’t know about you, but I sorta just want to hide. I’m not really a hide in bed with the covers over my head kinda person, I’m more like hide in a book, or hide in an NCIS marathon, or hide in a bag of chester cheesecorn. How much free advertisement have they received from me anyway? I’m guessing you may have your own hiding places. I think it’s pretty normal in the ups and downs of life, but as has been noted by most everyone, 2020 has brought a whole new level of roller coaster that often appears more down than up. And the longer we go, the more frustrated we get with the need for all the protecting of others with the virus, and the willingness to listen and learn with the complexities of race relations and inequalities.
So what, right? All of that isn’t rocket science. The question becomes what do we do to help ourselves and others face into the frustration and the fatigue? Shouldn’t I have said to help others first and then to help ourselves? That’s always the Jesus way. Yes and. There are moments when helping ourselves first becomes the strength to then serve others. You know I’m going to go all scriptural now.
“But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him (Jesus) and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:40-42, NRSV). Jesus doesn’t say Mary never has to work or help out. Jesus doesn’t say Martha has it all wrong all the time. Jesus does say that in this moment, in the moment while Jesus is with them to teach for them to hear and carry on ministry, Mary has chosen the better part to sit at his feet and listen and learn. She must take responsibility for strengthening her own faith and understanding of Jesus first SO THAT she can serve others after Jesus is gone in earthly form.
It’s the whole in case there is an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first and then help the child who is with you. It makes perfect sense. In those MOMENTS, it is not selfish to strengthen/help yourself first, it’s the only way you will be able to help or serve others.
In this time of overwhelming everything in the world, we do well to take the time to see how we are and to develop, perhaps more intentionally than ever before, the tools and resources to keep ourselves in a place of grace and courage. Preacher nanette says that scripture and devotion reading, prayer and meditation, worship and small groups are ALWAYS good. And preacher nanette also says some days that all seems too churchy for the day we’re having. That day when maybe we feel like or are(?) cussing like a sailor, and sometimes for no discernible reason! I mean, smashing your finger with a hammer, o.k., but someone chewing too loudly?!!? Ummm, may be a red flag to note that we need to give ourselves a little help. The 23rd Psalm recitation? Absolutely. AND!!!!
Name 3 instances in your life when you had flat-out the most fun you’ve ever had, those moments which will never be forgotten and you can relive them in a flash.
- What is one thing in this very day and this very moment for which you can be grateful?
- If you had a nickname ever, how did you get it, was it acceptable to you, do you ever let anyone know what it was who doesn’t, and are there still people in the world who call you that who you still like?
- If money were no object, and it could NOT be given to any close or distant member of your family, to whom would you give a gift and stay anonymous and what would the gift be and why?
- When was the last time you did something silly and laughed at yourself – not in derision but in fun?
Sometimes it just has to be practical, and EASY, and accessible in a way that churchy stuff sometimes isn’t. And I would even argue that these things that seem altogether ordinary actually have their own sacred place in God’s Spirit that lives within each of us.
Answering these things, and a host of others of which you are probably thinking, take me outside of the intensity of some of the more down moments in the midst of difficult days. And when we can let go of the intensity now and again, it actually gives us time to re-fill and re-strengthen for the important work we must persevere in doing to mitigate the expansion of the virus as much as possible, and stay committed to long-term change in issues of justice for all who are left out and left behind. It may feel selfish, but my contention is, that as long as they don’t serve as ends in and of themselves, as they give us time to relax and get out of our own way a little, it helps us serve others with greater kindness and generosity that isn’t always the case when we’re simply over-fatigued by everything that is the year 2020.
Today I’m wearing a little silver bracelet given to me one year by a confirmation student who heard me tell a story in a sermon about a friend of mine who will remind me intermittently with a bit of a lilt in her voice, “this too shall pass.” I don’t wear it every day, but today glancing at it has helped with the hard parts and reminded me of the good. And for today, I think that’s enough.