April 20, 2020
I saw a tweet recently where someone wrote: I hope season 2 of 2020 is better than season 1! I felt that in my soul! This has been the hardest 4 months for many of us. We have all altered how we live and relate to the world around us. We have all struggled to adjust to a new normal in hopes that our old normal or some piece of it will return. We have all found ourselves wondering what might come next or how long we will have to endure this crisis. I am hopeful that what comes as a result of our deep grief is a restoration of life, not so much a resurrection of the old, but a restoration to something better.
We chaplains often use metaphors like “life is a journey” and “this is just a season” to help navigate the ebbing and flowing of life. We imagine life as a journey because we can only see metaphorically just as far as the road meets the sky. What lies beyond will only be known as we continue to walk. The same goes with the thought of these circumstances being a season, a preset segment of time where in we can measure progress by the circumstances around us. We understand winter as a season because it begins with change and ends with change. We understand planting season leads to harvest season, that the stillness of winter leads to the bursting of life in spring.
Every season has something in it that we need: rest of winter, newness of spring, washing rains of summer, and the gathering goodness of autumn. What is difficult right now, especially for me, is understanding what this season of life is giving me. I don’t know what I could possibly need from a season of isolation from friends or a fear of terrible illness infecting those I love. What possible good is there in a season of hardship and fear?
As a chaplain I’m often asked difficult questions. The hardest part of my job is not answering them. Is there a God? Is there life after death? Will I be forgiven? Will my family be ok without me? What will I see? These questions are as impossible to answer as the questions about why we are experiencing this virus outbreak. I cannot give you an answer. I can, however, sit here with you in your grief as a fellow pilgrim on the journey, just as confused and hurt by the season at hand. I can join you in your lament. I can sing the songs of mourning. I can hold your (metaphorical) hand and heart.
Loneliness and isolation is real. We are all broken and solidarity is our only cure. The hardest thing we can do is look past our own needs and take inventory of our neighbors’ brokenness. Do you dare look across the fence? Do you dare look into their open windows? Do you dare look and take notice? Do you see? Will you see?
Look, listen, learn. Your neighbors are hurting. Your friends are lonely. Your co-workers are in need of an encouraging word. “I see you!” “I love you!” “I will hold you in my heart!”
I don’t have an answer for why it hurts. I have no answers about how long it will last. I have no solutions to offer other than myself and my solidarity. I will make the effort to see you fully. I will walk at your side as we both discover our paths ahead. I will listen to your fears and will tell you mine. I will affirm that you have the right to question everything. Everything is awful and we are not ok. We are broken and battered, tired and weak. However, I cannot fix you and you cannot fix me. We deserve so much more than that…
I leave you with these words by Cairo McFarlane and her poem “If you are broken I cannot fix you”
If you are broken I cannot fix you.
I can hold your pieces within my bones and Atriums
Until you learn to piece yourself whole again.
One by one,
I will hand them to you.
And I will love you wholly.
And I will love you without judgement.
I will love you sans peur.
And I will love you.
Remembering is imperative.
Remembering you are loved,
in all your brokenness,
you are loved.
May you never even once forget.
Broken or not
You are Loved.