Rector's Ramblings January 20, 2021
When I started 2020, I kicked it off with a plan that each month of the year would have a particular focus around wellness. You may remember that I wrote about Dry January, for example. Among the things that the pandemic killed was that sort of organized planning around what would have been normal behavior. I did work on wellness in 2020, but it ebbed and flowed, like normal. I managed to exceed my goal for fitness running/walking/riding, but most of my success was in the first half the year. I lost some weight and gained it back. The COVID snacking we all joked about when we were in quarantine turned into the COVID fifteen, like a freshman year in college. I’m glad I had a head start on the loss side of the ledger!
I remember early on in the pandemic when folks were suggesting that we would all have so much free time that we should take up a new hobby or learn a new language; that we shouldn’t squander the “gift” of the pandemic. As time went on, however, we learned that we often had less free time than more, if our regular routine required us to do our work in new ways that slowed us down either because it involved unfamiliar skills or because things just move slower in pandemic mode. For some, having kids home for online schooling wasn’t a Pinterest moment, but an incredible challenge for all involved. There was satisfaction in getting through each day without worry about new skills or special extracurricular offerings.
I realize that there are those who did find themselves with extra free time, either because they are retired or because they were out of work one way or another, but both of those situations don’t represent a net positive. The inability to work and/or to associate with friends and family can be frightening and for many, also depressing. Even with technology, these months of pandemic have been troubling, to say the least. A recent report from a national mental health organization estimated that half of Americans have, or are currently experiencing, clinical symptoms of anxiety and/or depression right now, between a sustained pandemic and a bruising political cycle.
We are all hoping and praying for a better 2021, although we also may resonate with Mother Ashton’s comment in her sermon this past Sunday that the early part of January feels like it should be a part of 2020! We’re all looking for that turning point when things do seem to be getting brighter. We’ve had our glimpses, but resolution, healing, and normalcy are still a way off. We don’t expect the pandemic to dramatically improve in the next couple of months, nor will our political woes be magically mended with today’s Inauguration. So, what do we do?
We need to continue to work on our well-being, physical, emotional, and spiritual. This is not a time for making resolutions and setting goals that aren’t practical, but for doing small things that will add up to making us healthier over time. Now is not the time to punish ourselves for gaining weight from our stress eating, or to get lost in the grief of continued social distancing and its effects. Instead, we can simply figure out how to care for ourselves one day at a time, using the opportunities that lie before us at any given moment. If we struggle to make progress, we can be kind to ourselves and not add to the burden.
My expertise is in spiritual matters, so I’ll suggest starting there. We need to practice our faith now, more than ever. Prayer and meditation are some of the best ways to alleviate stress and anxiety that I know of. It can be anything from informal talking to God, to formalized practices using the Daily Office or some other devotional. Some find prayer journaling – writing out your prayers to God on paper – to be very helpful. It could be breathing exercises that center us on God and God’s presence.
I also recommend finding a way to “get back to church” on a regular basis. For many that may not yet mean showing up in the tent in person, but watching online each week, just to have the connection. If we are active in participating with the service (saying the prayers, following the liturgy, singing the hymns, etc.) it is not the same as watching a television show; it can be quite effective. We hope to soon have an option for parishioners to “call in” to Sunday worship live, so that they can listen to the service, even if they can’t see it. I grew up in a church that broadcast services on the radio and people loved it.
I still hold hope that 2021 will be a better year overall, but I know there will be setbacks and challenges ahead, too. I could not have gotten through 2020 without God’s help, and I’m quite certain I can’t navigate 2021 without God, either. My goal is somewhat generic, although I have a plan to achieve that goal. My goal is to spend more time with God, asking for God’s support, and letting God hold onto that which I cannot bear or carry. Some days will be better than others, I know.
Sometimes we don’t need to reinvent ourselves or to set records of any kind or to blaze new trails. Sometimes all we need is to focus on what’s right in front of us, what we need for now, and rely on the sources of strength that have always buoyed us through choppy waters. Good enough is often enough, especially in these days. God’s goodness is more than enough, if we can keep it before us and accept it. Keep those prayers ascending. I know I am.
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Photo Credits: Perrogordito, by WildDogster, and Quarantine sign by Tistip, both shared via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International