UGH! What Do We Do?
Three months. Today marks the end of the third month since the novel coronavirus changed life as we knew it, we closed the campus of our church, and began examining each of our personal choices in light of the relative risk factor. Three months, and I am DONE!
Done. I am over missing family and friends, over my not-yet-five year old daughter begging us to move somewhere in the world where she might be allowed to play with other children again, over the loss of intimate community, hugs, and energy as we filled the sanctuary for worship. Over it. Finished! That was the overwhelming feeling I experienced this week as the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths began to rise in Tarrant and Dallas Counties. It became a concrete realization that our situation is not going to be resolved any. time. soon. For three days I moved between sadness, anger, and frustration as I grappled with another truth: I am powerless to change any of it. I cannot fix it for myself, for Erin, or make it different for our church family; I cannot erase the pain of the loved ones mourning the deaths of 115,000 people and counting who have died in the last three months; I cannot ease the struggle of the exponentially greater number who are ill; I cannot make it okay to return to normal life without the fear of infection.
I reached out. I called a few trusted confidants to rail, vent, and even cry a little. I also received some of those calls. They came from friends beyond our church family, from a few on the church staff, and from some of you. I am not alone in struggling to balance the intellectual knowledge that this virus thing really won't last forever, but feeling like we are stuck in an episode of the Twilight Zone that will never end. And I am not the only one feeling DONE, done with the inability to DO anything to change any of it.
So, what to you do when you don't know what to do? When you can't change the very things you'd want to change? Can our faith shape those answers? Where might scripture point us?
There are many examples of confusing, fearful, painful times in the lives of those people recorded in Scriptures. Perhaps some of the lowest days and confusing times occurred for those Christ followers who experienced those days between the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Luke 23:54-56 through Luke 24:1-12 there is a great example of how we can choose to respond when we don't know what to do or feel powerless to change our circumstances.
It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
I really admire how these women responded in the face of deep sadness and confusion. They must have been so overwhelmed at this point. They had been following Jesus, they had been expecting Jesus to lead them forever, but now their Messiah was dead in the tomb. They had been taught God’s laws, but now it seemed God was dead. So now what?
There was a lot these women did not know at this point, but rather than focusing on all the unknowns, they just did what they did know. They didn’t know why Jesus was dead. They didn’t know what God was doing. They didn’t know what was going to happen next. They just knew Jesus’ body needed to be buried properly. They just knew that God said to rest on the Sabbath. So that’s what they did.
So many times in life we become paralyzed and lost in life because we get overwhelmed about all that we don’t know. You may not know how a relationship will be healed. You may not know what the right long term decision is for your child. You may not know where your next paycheck will come from. You may not know how you will stay ahead of addiction for the rest of your life. Or how you will cope if the current situation lasts another three months. Or six. Or longer. So what should you do when you don’t know what to do? What should I do?
Perhaps we just need to do what we do know. While there are many things we don’t know, we all know something. Those who keep following God faithfully throughout their life are those who focus on doing what Anna reminded us of in our Frozen 2 conversation last Sunday: they do the next right thing. They are not defeated by the darkness obscuring the future. Rather, they regain focus by simply doing the good they do know to do even when they don’t know what the future will hold or how the story will end.
You may not know how that relationship will be healed, but you know you are always to forgive. So forgive. You may not know the best long term decision for your child, but you know your primary purpose as a parent is to love and protect, so you simply focus on those things today. You may not know how you will overcome your addiction forever, but you know what the right choice is in the moment so you make it. You may feel DONE, overwhelmed and alone, but you know that one of the great purposes of the Christian community is to stand in the gap with one another, so you call someone. And you take the calls when others reach out to you.
Frustrations are increasing. Sociologists call it "quarantine fatigue" - when people become weary and overwhelmed with restrictions and protection of self and others. Emotions bubble up. Resentments arise. Resolve is overwhelmed and apathy threatens to overtake. Yet, steadily increasing numbers tell us that the worst is not yet behind us. Thankfully, we are not in this alone. Whenever doubts fill the mind, remember the women whose story prompts us to look to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whatever we face in life, we can be confident that God will provide a way forward.
When you don’t know everything you need to do. We just need to do the next right thing. We just keep moving forward even when we don’t know all the future will hold. We do what we can today. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the greater good. We forgive. We choose restraint. We love and protect. We do the next right thing.
Call me if you need to talk, vent, or cry.
I am so very blessed to be your pastor.
Grace and peace,
aka "The Vicar"
Worship at home. Save lives.
Love God. Love your neighbor