One of the habits this pandemic has cultivated is thriving in survivalist mode: dealing with the thing in front of you, then moving to the next, until all the “things” are done. This requires shelving one’s emotions for another time because they get in the way of what needs to be done. This kind of operating can be intoxicating because there is a rush that comes from accomplishing things when times are hard – acknowledging that despite how hard things are, you are still being productive and useful. It can be a useful skill, but a habit that cannot be sustained long-term.
Nowhere have I felt that reality more than in this last week. In the course of one single week I conducted a funeral for a one-month old infant, I joyfully celebrated the baptism of two life-giving children (one infant and one preschooler), I received the shocking news that my beloved barre and yoga studio would be closing in 24 hours (a place that has been a source of joy, friendship, and health for five years), our family entered into quarantine as we finally succumbed to COVID (we’re all fully vaccinated and boosted), which involved postponing countless major and minor events at church, and finally, learned that a dear friend who is younger than we are was gravely ill from long COVID. It was not until the end of the week, when COVID finally slowed me down that I realized what a rollercoaster of a week it had been emotionally.
Truth be told, the life of a pastor is regularly a rollercoaster like this. I frequently have back-to-back meetings: one for a couple preparing for marriage and one for someone facing divorce. I can have back-to-back visits: one for a family with a newborn and one for someone on Hospice. Even Holy Week has Good Friday and Easter Sunday within days of each other. Emotional whiplash is a regular occurrence in this field. But in some ways, the disadvantage of this pandemic is that we all seem to be living in a constant emotional rollercoaster. You may have read my litany of the last week and thought, “Seems like a typical week in COVID!”
My prayer for all of us during this rollercoaster of a time is that we be tender with one another. When we hear good or hard news, remember there are a lot of other things going on in the background – family who cannot be there, conflict among neighbors, or even happy news that seems inappropriately timed. But especially remember to be tender with yourself. If you need to congratulate yourself for just surviving and being productive, do it. If you need to wallow or cry, do it. And in case you cannot feel it or have lost touch with your relationship with God, remember God is with you in the midst of it all, being more tender with us than we could ever be to ourselves or others. My prayer is that you feel God’s presence this week.