Highs and Lows
Have you decided yet? That whether you have a 650 square foot apartment or a 3,500 square foot house or somewhere in between where most of us are, that you’d sell it for a dime if someone gave you half the chance right now? Do those things about it that have always sort of bugged you, now seem to jump out at you every time you walk by them? You know, that corner with the chipped paint, that popcorn ceiling in that one bathroom that no matter how many times you take a broom, there’s always something stringy hanging in that one place. The stain on the carpet over which you have artistically placed a piece of furniture, but because you know it’s there, it mocks you. Have you painted the room you talked yourself into thinking would be an “easy fix” when you bought the place?
Kyle came to my office door last week when I was “writing my sermon”, I thought briefly about trying to quickly pull up a document on my screen that would look serious and manuscript-y, but then decided it wasn’t worth it. He was attempting to create his sermon as well and wanted to know what I had so far. “Nothing.” That was the answer, and you all know I NEVER answer a question with one word, especially about sermons and theology and Jesus. “I got nothing. How about you?” And Kyle said, “same.” And I said, “so I’m shopping,” and I stopped trying to hide the screen on my computer. There on the screen were box after box of different kinds of clothes – slacks, shirts, EVEN DRESSES! He laughed and laughed as did I because well, shopping and me. Two things that don’t often get said together in the same sentence.
Sometimes for preachers, words come too fast to try and write them down. It’s like, Katie bar the door the horses are slamming toward the barn! And then there’s other times. It isn’t terribly often that two pastors have the same experience at exactly the same time and actually admit it to one another. But we did. And somehow it made it easier, at least a little bit. Not that misery loves company, but sometimes misery loves company. It doesn’t feel quite so heavy when someone else is living the same struggle. The struggle is still there, two sermons still needed creation, but the moments of non-creation weren’t as impossible. And from what I understand, there was a CG sermon and a traditional service sermon that happened last Sunday morning, so at some point the Spirit struck each of us. How and When? There are certain things clergy know well enough not to ask each other.
A few weeks ago, or maybe 3 million years, when we entered into this pandemic and the shelter at home became the clear way to flatten the curve, I think I thought that I would become instantly more creative. That I would have soooooo much more time to read and then write and maybe paint (not walls but canvases) and play my piano and drink deeply of my right-brained screaming-to-get-out imagination. That somehow the left-brained obsessing about administrative decisions, and schedules, and long-range plans, and budgets and technology would fall away into a far-off place of unicorns and rainbows while we all simply lived and lived simply. Ooooops. Because zoom, and skype, and dropboxing, and phone-filming, and microphones, and adapters for microphones for phones that don’t have that plug-in place, and light-stands, and backgrounds, and WHAT TO WEAR! And all kinds of FB posts about “best practices” which of course you’re not doing, and have you thought of these bazillion things moving forward. And the pandemic will be over in two weeks, and the pandemic hasn’t even reached its peak yet, and the pandemic will change everything, and the pandemic will one day be a blip on our rearview mirror and change nothing, and social-distancing is the new fist-bump, and masks are the new “no shirts, no shoes, no service” item. Have I stressed you out yet? I think I have me. And maybe as no surprise, life did not become more simple, and time did not get added into a day, and we did not suddenly become completely different people doing all the creative house projects we have promised we would do if we were ever stuck at home.
Learning a new rhythm of hours and days and what a week looks like has been drawing a map as we go. I believe that will continue for a quite awhile moving forward, AND I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit in God’s wild act of creating us. It’s that part of the breath of life that God gave us that is about more than surviving or striving toward the least common denominator. God has invited and imbued human beings throughout history, to find ways in and through the struggle toward the beautiful, the unique, and the way to rise up and dream big when all context points toward being defeated. My own opinion is that’s much of what God loves about us and why God continues to refuse to give up on us when we are our worst selves.
In the middle of the wilderness having been set free from slavery but before reaching the land of promise, God’s people wanted Moses to take them back because they didn’t like living in insecurity or the food. After defeating the 400 prophets of the pagan god ba’al, Elijah asked God if he could die because Jezebel said she was going to kill him and have the dogs lick his blood off the ground. We humans see through the glass darkly so much of the time. We sit down in defeat and wonder why God has abandoned us. Then, in the middle of the wilderness with Moses as the sign of God’s power, God provides manna and doves for the people to eat again affirming God’s presence in their journey toward promise and life. When Elijah believes he’s reached the end of his rope, God sends him to Mt. Horeb and says to prepare because God is about to pass by – remember with me, there is a strong wind and God is not in the wind, there is an earthquake and God is not in the earthquake, and there is fire and God is not in the fire, and after that the sound of “sheer silence” sometimes translated as a “still small voice” and God was in the still small voice – even the sheer silence. All of our/my desire to out-function God finally comes in God’s reminder that we’re not, you know, God. And in that place, we exhale, and we rest in God’s embrace and from that place we see beauty – the true beauty of our selves, our dreams, our possibilities, our hopes, and a future bright with the vision of how we share life together on this globe that we all call home.
I may yet find time to be peculiarly creative in this chapter of life. I simply need to be the one to choose and carve out space for that beauty to be a priority in my day. And maybe that doesn’t end when the shelter at home does. Maybe that’s a gift that once received is not taken back or put away or set aside as something I will get to if I ever have time. I hope you have moments of beauty in the midst of these weird and complex days, that you have music that lifts your spirit, and that sometimes you can just sit and laugh at what you thought you would get done and then don’t. Decide with me to live another day through the highs and the lows and the in-betweens, the creative and the not so much, and the faith in a God whose presence is sometimes simply the quiet in our souls.