The last year has been challenging for all of us — a global pandemic, intense political culture, grieving lives lost and our pre-COVID life, and _____________ (fill in your blank). We’ve made it to the one-year mark of when our world, and life as we know it, shut down. One year. Let that sink in for a moment.
My first COVID response email from my school district was sent on March 9, 2020, and within a week, we learned that the district would be closed from March 18-April 3, 2020. Throughout the next year, we all lived in flux — empty toilet paper shelves, no school to virtual school or working from home, ever changing news about the virus, Zoomed in and out, and the prayers for a vaccine to hopefully end this all. Yet, in all of this flux, we found joys, neighborly generosity, creative solutions to distance and safe interactions, and never forgot that God is with us always.
For me, this year has been difficult as a "people person." Surprise! I am my best self when busy and surrounded by people. I love festivals, concerts, camps, mission trips, work/school and a church community when it’s full of people and life. We all know COVID living has felt a little lifeless at times, and has taken (or continues to take) a toll on our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health, and all for good reason. Yet, amidst all this, we found ways to be a good neighbor in our world and to one another.
The first part of this scripture, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind,” is a constant in our lives. My soul has been heavy with COVID’s impact, student/youth and family needs, and lacking the fire I feel from engaging with people. My strength has dwindled from sitting on my couch for too many streamed shows and Zooming. My mind has been overwhelmed with so many different routines, but also with boredom — like I’m going to organize every closet kind of boredom. And yet, when I prayed, coordinated a local mission trip, hosted virtual confirmation and turned to God, I did so fiercely with my heart, soul, strength, and mind. This love fueled me to continue and do my best each and every day, even when it’s hard.
Lent is traditionally a dark time, a time for reflection, and I know that all of us could write a comparable pandemic narrative. What spoke to me most about this scripture was the last bit — to love “your neighbor as yourself.” Loving myself is always tough because I’m critical, reflective, and a perfectionist. However, this year I’ve wrestled with loneliness, being hard on myself because I didn’t do enough for the day, and finding it difficult to reach out to friends because I was overwhelmed. My message for you (and for myself) is to take time for self-care. Look for the joys or grateful moments in each day and lift your thanks to God. Many people in our St. Lucas community and personal lives are good neighbors and are ready to support one another with grace and love in any way we can. But we cannot seem to extend the same love and grace to ourselves. I challenge you this week to do a little something for yourself that brings you joy, so that you can share that joy with others.
As our world continues to change with more in-person gatherings, vaccine availability, and a new routine (again), embrace these changes with self-care, grace, and love that you would extend to any neighbor. Be gentle with yourself and continue to love with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Make Lent Make a Difference in your life through self-care so that you can continue to be the hands and feet of Christ to others.