How are you doing this week? I know it was another challenging week. You got word that your congregation could gather for worship on May 24, and then you received guidelines for worship that seemed to make it impossible to gather.
As you look for direction in the midst of conflicting voices, you continue to face a time of uncertainty. It is a time of disappointment, lack of security, and fear of the unknown.
How Are You Responding?
You can respond in one of several ways.
You can spend time focused on what has gone wrong.
It is easy to get lost in grieving the things that have been put on hold. You miss gathering with family and friends, singing hymns and songs of praise, celebrating holy communion, exchanging greetings with handshakes and hugs, serving coffee as hospitality, and gathering as a worshipping community.
Personally, I have come through several times of uncertainty. Times of not knowing what the future might hold and being paralyzed regarding what decisions to make. Being uncertain about the future, I felt confused, disappointed, and alone. I confess, I spent a lot of time thinking about could have, would have, and should have been.
You can spend time focused on what is going right.
I’m not denying the situation you and I find ourselves, but there is another way to respond. Instead of grieving the loss of activities, celebrate the relationships each activity provided.
In the midst of my anxiety, a colleague and friend stepped in to help me face my uncertainty. I didn’t get a lot of sympathy, shallow agreements, or unrealistic platitudes. Who I got was a person of faith who did two things: allowed me to be me and helped me discover a new perspective.
What I learned then and what to reaffirm now is, when everything seems to be taken away, there is one thing that cannot be taken away: love.
So, first, let me remind you to recognize, understand, and name your feelings. It is okay to grieve. Your feelings are your feelings. For you to become who God created you to be, you will need to be vulnerable and courageous. You will need to be kind to yourself and generous with the people around you. As I have written in the past, the payoff is worth it: better health, better decision making, better relationships, and a better you.
Then, second, love your neighbor. It is okay to need people. You are created to love others. It will be in your relationships that you will find hope and healing, as well as a way to face the uncertainty of this pandemic. It will be in and through your relationships that you will discover the power to face your grief and develop a new perspective for stepping into the future.
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, in his book Together writes about healthy relationships being as essential as vaccines and ventilators for our global recovery. He says we have the opportunity to fortify and strengthen our connections and communities during this crisis.
“There is a need for medications such as antibiotics, for blood pressure, and antidepressants. Medicines can help, but there is nothing more powerful than love in its ability to heal.”
He goes on to say that the clearest way we feel and experience love, is through relationships; authentic, open relationships.” Building community, developing relationships, is essential for healing. We are born to be relational. Our connection to one another is necessary.
Who would guess, something so simple, something we take for granted, has the power to heal in such extraordinary ways? So, how do we move the world toward love?
Tip the World Toward Love
This pandemic is giving you the opportunity to do just that, one person at a time. It begins with the decisions you make every day. So here is one place to begin:
Wear your mask in public.
Wearing your mask is not so much for you as it is for others. By wearing your mask, you are saying, “I care about you. I take you seriously.”
2. Observe physical distance.
We are calling it social distance, but you want to maintain your social connections. By observing the physical distance of 6 ft or more, you are saying, “I am thinking of you and I want you to be healthy.”
Those are just two ways you can begin to tip the world toward love. It seems simple, but it is the sacrifice that will be noticed.
Intentionally Develop Relationships
If you are wearing your mask and observe the appropriate distance, then practice developing relationships outside the activities that are on hold. Start with someone you know. Here is what you can do:
- Identify a friend or colleague to be your conversation partner.
- Call, text, email, zoom, your partner. Make arrangements for a 15-minute conversation.
- Before the conversation, give yourself permission to be vulnerable and to be your true self.
- Then, explain to your partner you are seeking to tip the world toward love. Give your partner permission to love you by allowing you to be yourself and by helping you discover a new perspective.
This will seem silly and unnecessary at first. Then as you seek to develop relationships with others, this exercise will become more difficult. It will require the courage to be vulnerable. But you will begin to take a chance on others as you begin to believe more in yourself. As you build relationships in your life, you will make it possible to build a more relational world.
So, let’s try it. Love your neighbor. Whether you are a pastor, teacher, congregational or community leader, you can tip the world toward love.
The clearest way to feel and experience love is in and through relationships. This is our hope. To love your neighbor as yourself.
Let’s take advantage of this pandemic and tip the world toward love.