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A path winding through a forest

The current situation of lock down, social distancing, covid19 precautions, is overwhelming, isn’t it?

I am finding it too much to be on social media, for all the articles and opinions being shared. My inbox is full of emails from organisations with which I am connected, letting me know their plans and procedures in this time (full not least because one of the emails was sent to me multiple times from the same, and multiple, sources). Colleagues in the church are scrambling to develop alternative ways to do and be church, and sharing ideas and wanting to collaborate (friends, 1. I have chronic fatigue, so no, I’m not going to add to my workload, and 2. I already post a weekly prayer every Sunday, and have done for over three years: Pray the Story. check it out. they’re there for you to use).

So there is information overload.

It is worrying, considering the impact on already frail and in many cases isolated members of my flock of this illness and the precautionary measures. It is deeply concerning, from a human point of view, to learn of all the illness and the deaths resulting from the corona virus around the world. A family member needing surgery who may have it cancelled on her and have to live with pain for months more, causes me anxiety on her part. Friends who are self-employed, freelance workers in various fields, now with income and employment opportunities vanishing before their eyes, causes me concern for their financial and emotional welfare.

There is exponential need for our compassion.

I rely on supermarket delivery services now unavailable to me, and wonder if I will be categorised as vulnerable enough with my chronic illness, to access such service again soon. I was to present at conferences in July, but travel is restricted, so how / will that happen? I live interstate from my family, and consider it risky to travel and get home: how long till I can be with my family again?

There is an abundance of uncertainty.

Last night, I fell into bed and burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably under the weight of the burdens of this season (which are compounded by the weight of griefs and chronic illnesses).

But when I awoke this morning, having had a good cry and a good sleep, I felt better. Consider the way a hiker will pause part way up the mountain to set aside their pack from their shoulders for a while, breathe more freely for a spell, in order to pick up the pack again and keep climbing, refreshed. By feeling and expressing the feelings of sorrow, responsibility, uncertainty, concern, for a moment I let go of all I am carrying, felt the lightness of release for a spell, and in the morning, I again picked up all I need to carry, and it sat more easily on my shoulders somehow.

I realised I do not need to be afraid of, to deny, to resist, how overwhelming this season is, but do need to acknowledge it as a reality. That the hard feelings of loss and grief, concern and compassion, are not negative. These emotions carry energy of their own, and it is energy that equips us to journey through the valleys and shadows. Feeling them, paying attention to them, is healthy – much healthier than denial and resistance and avoidance. My chiropractor says emotions are like water that needs to flow. With her help, I am learning how to flow with my emotions and draw on their energy.

And the two days leading up to last night’s good cry were not especially difficult days. They were full days. They contained meetings and conversations discerning our congregation’s needs in this current season; a decision to suspend our larger gatherings at least until Easter (and probably longer); sharing the tasks of communicating the decision with the congregation; collaborating on alternative ways to invite our people to worship. They were full days, weighty days, but somehow still good days.

You see, overall, I find myself seeing in this season opportunity.
Our children and youth worker and I have been planning for ‘faith at home’ resources for our families: now, we have no option but to do faith at home, and we are ready with ideas and invitations.
Many of our leaders have been pondering how to encourage and equip a thoughtful congregation to continue to delve deeper in their explorations: this season is an opportunity to build skills and practices that encourage our people to take responsibility for their spirituality and discipleship not only for this season, but into the future.
With so many churches and ministers jumping straight to live streaming or pre recording worship as it usually happens in the church building, for people to watch on their screens, we have embraced this opportunity to do something different. Why replace embodied gatherings with more screen time? We will be exploring ways to enable people to pray, engage with the Bible, and respond, for themselves, with creativity, in creation, and still embodied and connecting with each other through sharing experiences and learning, now and when we gather again.

I think my tears were in part from feeling overwhelmed by it all. They were probably also partly relief, that I found the internal resources to lead my team in making and implementing a tough decision, and that after the distance of study leave and sick leave in recent months, I am finally back with my team and actively participating again in our collaboration and I no longer feel so alone.

It has been overwhelming, everything associated with the coronavirus in recent days and weeks; everything associated with storms and before that fires and before that droughts; and for me personally, everything associated with the end of a collegial relationship, the death of my dad, the living with chronic conditions.
And I will feel the weight of all that, from time to time, let it be too heavy, and cry to release the burden for a while.
And I will also embrace the opportunity of this season. I will enter the valley, the shadows, the darkness, trusting I have the resources, knowing the Divine walks with me and us even there, remembering that when I have walked through the valleys before that has been the way to find the light, whatever that may look like in each different valley. (note that Psalm 23 is the psalm for this week)

So it’s not be overwhelmed OR seize opportunity, but be overwhelmed AND seize opportunity. This is a hard season, another one. It is a season in which we may learn, we will receive gifts, we will grow. Hard, rewarding, overwhelming opportunity.