Chocolates and Naps

What kind of day is it when you’re studying and reading and researching for a sermon and these items suddenly appear resting on the very page you’re reading???

Could it be a gift of the Holy Spirit? It’s not one of the ones listed in Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” They’re not fruit, but I could make a case for them being/bringing love and joy, maybe even stretching to generosity because I’m certain if anyone were around I would share at least one of them. But self-control might cancel out at least one of those because, no. Funny thing is, I don’t really consider myself an over-the-top chocolate lover. Don’t get me wrong, I rarely will turn it down. But if given the choice, I’ll take a bag of Chester Cheese corn or barbecue potato chips any day of the week. And yet, in these days of sheltering/quarantining I find myself open to sugar as well as salt and crunch. Maybe you too? At least most of the time I will say right out loud, “I am eating to fulfill an emotional void I am experiencing rather than because I am hungry.” I’m not certain if that cancels out the calories and the negative effects of the sugar content, but I feel like I’m stating a truth of self-awareness and there should be some points for that!

When we’re going thru a “novel” experience like this, different days elicit different responses in thinking, feeling, expressing, emoting, creating, and sometimes simply needing to be a vegetable enjoying the garden, relaxing in the sun, taking in some water, and figuring growth is happening without really expending any effort. On those days, sometimes fertilizer looks like Hershey chocolate bars. The difficulty is, I don’t think we can predict which day we’re going to be in which way of being. Some of you have shared the FB post that says, and I quote: “Home isolation has its ups and downs. One day you’re flying high and cleaning the baseboards with a q-tip, and the next day you’re drinking tequila and watching squirrels out the window. There’s no in between.” It’s so funny because there’s so much essential truth in the statement. Maybe not q-tip cleaning and tequila, but for me it looks like this: one day going for an hour-long run and the next day eating little Hershey bars and pretending it’s waaaaay better than having a full-size candy bar because, MINI.

An hour or so ago I visited with a person who, in the midst of the rest of this roller-coaster ride, is also in the middle of a marital fracture that is not likely to be repaired. There are lots of factors, as there always are, and two very good people who lost each other in the midst of alcoholism. She told me a bright spot had been spending Sunday with her niece and sister, and that after her sister went to work in the morning, she and her young adult niece were in their pajamas laughing and talking about nothing and everything until 2 in the afternoon. She wanted to know if that was just scandalous. I smiled into the phone and asked if it had helped her forget the heaviness for a little while. When she said yes, then I told her that from this pastor’s perspective it was a gift of grace and Sabbath rest for a weary soul. Of course then I prescribed an hour of watching one of the worship services from Grace that are still online for the viewing. I think she then laughed a little too loud and long for my taste.

Those of you tuning in to the chat with the pastors this afternoon heard me talk about sitting in my office, seeing a car drive up and park on the north side of our lower lot. My car, and the church bus, and our trailer were the only other things in the parking lot with wheels, so I think she felt safe. She got out of her car with a huge fluffy blanket, and a bed pillow…seriously, not even exaggerating. She laid the blanket on the ground, wrapped herself up in it, positioned the pillow, and I truly believe she went to sleep for about 45 minutes. I did NOT see her move. She didn’t roll over, didn’t sit up, didn’t readjust the blanket or pillow, she was stock-still for 45 minutes, laying on the grass on our lawn, right in front of her car. If you know me well, you know how MANY stories I came up with for why she napped on our lawn. Three kids at home and a husband and she has not had ANY time to herself for 45 days and she could not take one more minute without some quiet. OR, she’s single, living by herself and she’s sick and tired of being isolated in the silence except for the t.v. or spotify or maybe an old timey record player and albums she’s had since she was in high school. The only way she could rest was to be out of her living space, out of earshot of “electronic” sound, and the cars racing by on Ridgeview let her know other people were still in the world going from here to there and life has some normalcy. OR, she decided that sign out front that says “All Are Welcome” invited her to figure out of this church really means “all means all” including tired people driving by in their car who simply needed a nap before they could go one block further. OR, she has a loved one in the hospital and being at home simply means never being able to stop worry or anxiety, but being in the shadow of a steeple and a cross somehow could bring enough peace that she could actually rest. You know I could go on and on, and I know you know that because most of you have heard me preach!

The God thing for her as I have reflected on it, is that she came exactly at the time the Chat with the Pastors was starting because if she had been a half hour earlier or a half hour later, you all KNOW what I would have done! I would have gone out to introduce myself and see if everything was o.k., if it was, I would have asked if she had a church home, and . . . I would have told her how great you all are and how much fun we have when we’re together AND when we’re social distancing, and I would have given her my card and written on the back of it our web-address and FB information and told her I hoped we would see her checking in Sunday morning to our service at 9:15 or 10:45 or our devotion at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays! A great pastor-y thing to do, but what if what she really needed and wanted, which I’m guessing is the case, was simply some peace and quiet for a nap? I would have not been helpful in all my helpfulness. As it was, God kept her safe, from folks in way greater numbers in a public park, and from an overly-friendly pastor who was otherwise occupied during the very time she appeared. I know, right? God’s grace abounds ALL the TIME! And I’m serious! I do think the timing and the environment was a God-thing for her, and maybe for me as well. Because sometimes people simply want to be left alone even when most everyone else is desiring company.

“In the morning while it was still very dark, he (Jesus) got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed,” (Mark 1:35) “At daybreak, he (Jesus) departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him,” (Luke 4:42a). “Now when Jesus heard this, (death of John the baptist) he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself,” (Matt. 14:13a). There are more moments we see through the gospels when Jesus would withdraw by himself. In each case, the crowds or the disciples would come and find him, and he would set out again to preach and teach and heal, but we must not overlook or underestimate the power of Jesus’ choice to spend time by himself in the midst of all that was being asked of him and all that he was committed to doing to serve and to witness.

Finally Hershey bars, full-size or many mini’s, will not fulfill spiritual, emotional, or physical hunger, and knowing that, every once in awhile it’s o.k. to let them try. Finally running for an hour one day, and being a watermelon, tomato, or lettuce-head resting in the garden the next day won’t solve the challenges of living in the days of a novel virus, and knowing that, a balance of each of those is not a bad thing to survive the weirdness. Finally a Sabbath day spent mostly in jammies with a niece won’t solve alcoholism or marital strife, and yet if it offers some moments of life-giving relief, it is a precious gift of grace. Finally I don’t know that a 45 minute nap on a church lawn on a random Tuesday afternoon at 3 during Chat with the Pastors, mitigated whatever long or short-term mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion this daughter of God had, but perhaps it offered a peace that passes all understanding resting her heart and mind in a way not even the pastor looking out the window could have done in an unasked for albeit well-meaning attempt at helpfulness.

The minute of grace today is to allow yourself a minute of grace today. Candy bars or physical exercise or being a carrot, laughing in your jammies til two or attending AA and/or ala-non, sleeping on a church lawn for 45 minutes or tuning in to listen to a couple of pastors chat – I think there are not absolutes that promise comprehensive solutions. I think there is being human, there is the possibility of balance, and there is an abundance of God’s grace for our walking in faith into the unknown, some days at our best, some at our worst, but all with a heart for faith in the God who walks with us.

Do not even think that what you see below on the video, is NOT a DISTINCT possibility with your pastors (Cheryl? Michael? Sylvia? Kyle?) when we are finally back together for in-person worship . . .