Here it is January 19th and we are mid-way through January 2022. Hopes for a declining or ending pandemic are dashed as the infection spreads rapidly. Just today in my corner of the world, I saw a post from news channel 9 that showed a photo with a mask from the local bus system in our county. The article mentions that the Task Force is being reactivated. I don't mind masks. I am glad to wear a mask to protect other people. As a follower of Christ, I am taught that living, loving, and leading IS about the other-- we are to love God and love neighbor. I understand that there are folks who disagree. There are followers of Christ who disagree. And that's okay. Those who lived and ate with Christ didn't always agree on things. There is nothing taught by the Holy Spirit or the written Word (to my knowledge) that says that all followers of Christ must agree.
I am weary. I am weary from the ongoing need to pay attention to statistics. I am weary of reading about people dying-- young and old. I am weary of attempting to hold the tension of the both/and, of the different sides, of riding the middle. I am weary of not being able to move forward with the next. It's not about going back to 'what was' as that cannot be. Much like air travel has not gone back to pre-9/11 days, there are many things that will not "go back" to pre-pandemic days. I'm good with that.
Prior to pandemic days, it was easier to live into liminal space, to paradox, to both/and, etc.
I have had my times of not knowing and Thomas Merton's prayer is an ongoing gift that speaks to me.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
Yet, there is only so much liminal space that I can absorb. The not knowing can become too much.
I am beginning to hear the Psalmist cry out 'how long, how long?' and cry out with him.
Yet, today, on my walk around the community I saw a sign that read "Don't Give Up". I thought to myself, "Don't Give Up".
I crossed the street to get a photo and when I did, there was a sign that had the words on the opposite side, but they were more faded. That made me chuckle a bit. Here were the same words, the same message, only more faded and worn out. Could it be that even when we are worn out, we can still receive the message of "don't give up"? Definitely something to chew on.
Whether we are reading the worn out sign or the not so worn out sign, here are some things we can NOT give up:
- Don't give up doing good.
- Don't give up looking at God, loving God, and loving others (as we love ourselves).
As I reflected on the message of the signs, I sat down for some afternoon reading and tea.
I picked up where I had left off in Discernment: a path to spiritual awakening by Rose Mary Dougherty and read this: "Julian's [Julian of Norwich] way of praying for others may be our most effective means of praying for self-knowledge. Perhaps for a time we give up looking at ourselves and keep our eyes focused on God. To look at God is to look at all of creation, seeing the shared God-life of all." (37)
Ah, there IS something we CAN give up--looking at ourselves and our situation. What we DON'T give up on is our focus on God. Isn't that what loving God and neighbor is about-- we focus on God and neighbor, not self or situation.
Dougherty continues, "As we do this, as we see the bigger picture, we also see ourselves in relation to it." (38)
Going back to the Psalmist David who cried out 'how long, how long' in Psalm 13-- David eventually got his focus off himself and back onto God. He gave up looking at himself and his situation and refocused on God.
From readings, from prayers, from reminders from signs and Scriptures, from hot tea and walks.. living into daily practices that help me refocus on God are the things that refuel and re-energize me.
May you find ways to regain your focus on God when you find yourself becoming weary or worn down. Don't give up on "seeing the shared God-life of all".