Hello GRC –
“How are you doing?” More than ever, I’m hearing directly and indirectly answers like, “Ok… Been better. Meh. Not great.” And that usually means, the real answer is worse.
My own answer to that question on Sunday mornings, often follows that same pattern. Part of that, to be honest, is that 16 of you might ask me that question, some out of politeness, some because you know me well enough to caringly inquire. And I can’t (and don’t want to) get into how I’m REALLY doing in the moment. I hope you know that I don’t mean to be dishonest. And yeah, writing a Voice of Grace is one way I can better interact with that question.
Would you agree that “more than ever” those kinds of “meh” answers are more common lately? Why is that? We’re tired of the pandemic, and we’re tired of blaming the pandemic, but I’m not sure we can, while still living through it, fully grasp what kind of deep and lasting impact THIS is having on us. Books, research papers and documentaries will be written and produced over the next decades, some of which may help us “veterans” to realize much later, what kind of generational disruption we’ve lived through.
It’s the mental grind of school and work implications; the differing (opposing?) philosophies and attitudes about masks and vaccines; the trauma of a mega-Q-tip scraping your brain via your nose, and twice! All after waiting in line, needing that appointment because of an upcoming trip, a planned visit to see grandma, a desperate attempt to prove you’re not “unclean” and should be allowed to resume the rhythms of life. Many of you have lost loved ones, and live in heightened fear of the virus. Many already had fear and anxiety, and you didn’t need another huge reason to fuel those thoughts. And over these two years, there’s also been incredible polarization in politics, podcasts and yes, sometimes pulpits: racial tensions, lack of civility among leaders, loss of jobs/income, and quite honestly, for us spoiled Americans, the more regular complaint of “Where’s my stuff?!” because of “the supply chain” – another phrase that’s unfortunately become part of our regular vocabulary.
Personally? I’ve never been this “tired” as a pastor. Over these two years, more of my pastor-peers have left the ministry (by their own choice) than in my previous 18 years as a pastor combined! The decline of church attendance in our country has accelerated since the pandemic first hit. Community connections within the church have been cancelled, postponed, modified, and when held, more sparsely attended than before. There seems to be more reasons to complain – about seating, scheduling, decision-making, masking, perceived attitudes about masking. (Through it all, lives are STILL being impacted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, neighbors in need are being helped through Father’s Cupboard, disciples are making disciples in rich community, and new faces appear each Sunday, so there truly ARE plenty of reasons to rejoice!).
Why do I share some of this with you? One reason is similar to the encouragement from Grace Stories: to assure you that you’re not alone if you feel the same way. Whether it’s a Grace Story or a Voice of Grace, maybe you’ll be emboldened to share honestly, authentically with someone else. “How are you, really? ‘Cuz me – I’m not so good, truth be told.” Maybe, like me, you can’t really put your finger on WHY? Some thoughts to wrap up:
- Stop listening to so much news and social media. Cut… it… out. It wires your mind to see the worst, anticipate more of the same, and it distracts you from what IS real ➡️
- Listen to the voice of your Savior and King and Creator. Quiet your heart in prayer, with your Bible open, and read to meditate and worship, not for content. Look for the promises of God that ARE STILL sure and certain because God doesn’t change and his faithfulness is great!
- Aggressively return to hospitality and community. Make your own choice about how many at a time, what precautions you might or might not request of your guests, and don’t fear their reaction. And if you’re on the receiving end, just chill out. You might choose differently, but honor your host/inviter and choose another hill to die on. If they want you to sit 6 feet away, love them enough to not roll your eyes. And enjoy one another! Talk about real things, including your struggles.
- Pray! Less for the pandemic to just go away. More for God to use this unique season to let His kingdom come, on earth as it (already is) in heaven.
I’m with you in this battle!