We have spent eight months in pandemic lockdown, forced to live in ways that feel so unnatural to us – wearing masks, keeping our distance.  No hugs, no travel, no singing in public.  Mostly, we’ve complied because it was the right thing to do.  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t living with a low-level grief at all that’s been lost in the process.  Self-denial does not feel good.  I usually go to the place of feeling guilty for how upset I am that I didn’t get to France this year, like, “look how pampered I’ve become.”  However, I’d like to invite you to take a moment to let yourself feel sorrow or anger over whatever you miss doing.  Life is precious, and it’s right to feel the loss of what made it so in the past.  In fact, part of healing involves admitting the pain.  It has helped to have daily prayer with you, a focused time to acknowledge the burden of these months and to set them before God each day.
I wonder if the grief of lockdown isn’t what contributed to making the rage over George Floyd’s death that much more intense.  Denied our usual distractions, the nation had fewer options for looking away.  Racism, of course, is still very much with us, always will be.  But it seems almost unfair, at a deep level, to give us only two choices in the matter: either face it and be constantly depressed at its pervasiveness, or deny/avoid it and know at some level that we’re perpetuating it by doing so.  Like optical illusions where the space between images reveals a new object, we don’t see how steeped we are in racism … until we do and then can’t un-see it.  I need to pray to God to make me humbler and less judgmental of others, to love without condemning while still holding us all accountable.
Wildfires, heatwaves, power outages, economic disaster, a raucous election, deaths and more deaths – everything seems to be piling on this year.  Lately in sermons I’ve urged us to see all the positive that’s come from this forced stasis, like more time at home with family, getting those long-delayed projects done, praying more, and clarifying what truly matters in life.  All good things.  But just for today … after you read this … please take time to grieve.  It’s been an awful year.  No joke.  Let yourself be angry and heartbroken over all you’ve lost.  When you’ve done that, I hope you can reconnect with the things and people that mean the most to you, even if it’s only virtual.
For me, church has been a saving grace.  Praying together, checking in on each other, reminding ourselves that a community exists and holds us dear, cares how we are doing – these have been a lifeline.  If you’ve not much dipped into our liturgies, please give yourself the gift of attending, and let Christ heal you in whatever small bit of worship time connects.  It’s not the same as before and may not be for some time, but even in our imperfect praise God is with us.
That smoke-filled, orange-skied Wednesday was a turning point for me.  Awestruck, in a good way, and overcome with dread, in a bad way, like I imagine the real apocalypse will do, I started thinking about the remaining years of my life.  Still am, no conclusions yet.  Perhaps you are doing the same.  As we wait for revelation, think on Christ and find him wherever you can.  Take time to notice his presence in your life, see him in others.  The optical illusion with this article goes like this: stare at the image vacantly for 20 seconds, then look away at a blank surface and see a familiar face.  It works for most people, anyway.  And maybe it’s a metaphor for how to live through these days: taking the time, now that we have it, to really look at things and see that God has been there all along.
With you in faith,