May 8, 2020
When I was in high school, my friend invited me to a summer church youth retreat. I’ve been to youth group with him a few times. Everyone seemed friendly and the youth minister seemed like a nice guy. So I decided sure, I can spend a week with you people at a water park retreat. On the first morning of the retreat, I came face to face with one of my biggest fears. The youth minister, whom I had hoped would be my friend, ruined everything. At 7 a.m. Richard knocked on our hotel door, came inside, and woke us up by singing “rise and shine, give God the glory, glory” and jumping on our beds! Richard was a morning person!
Every day for an entire week, this is how Richard woke us up for the day’s activities. It was almost enough to call home and ask my mom to buy me a bus ticket out of there! Every single day Richard’s joy and positive attitude startled me awake and reminded me that morning people are a special kind of mean spirited when all you want to do is sleep 5 more minutes.
Some people are naturally joyful. It’s ok if you’re one of those morning glories who wake up like Snow White coming out of a sleeping spell, refreshed and together. It’s ok if the birds and forest creatures greet you every morning with their dewy eyes and beckon you into the days activities. It’s ok to be weird like that.
For the rest of us, there might be a little evil stepmother lurking behind our baggy eyes and it’s best not to speak to us until we’ve had caffeine and a shower. Rise and shine? Nah! The best we can do is drag and lag…drag ourselves out of bed and lag behind until that delicious hot bean water makes the synapses connect and we become fully human again.
Blogger Amy Weatherly (I don’t endorse her any farther than this quote for many reasons) wrote this mantra that I felt in my heart: “I’ll rise. But you’re gonna have to back off and give me a minute before I shine, mmmmmkay?”
As we muddle through our lives during this season of grief, as we adjust to living in the age of Covid-19, we will all fall into one of two categories: those weirdos who can easily find something positive in each day and each challenge and the rest of us who find just getting the water in the coffee pot is our greatest achievement of the day. Either way, how we deal with the stress, grief, and emotional toll this season of isolation and quarantine brings, we must learn to accept that “rise and shine” or “drag and lag” are both acceptable and healthy ways of living in these disorienting days.
The struggle we are all in will take every ounce of strength we have, every coping mechanism we’ve learned, and every support system we’ve built to survive. It’s hard living in this traumatic grief filled world. So whether you rise and shine or drag and lag you’re going to get tired, you’re going to question everything, and you’re going to be so uncertain at times you’ll forget the look of your own face in the mirror. That’s ok, love. It’s supposed to be that way.
Grief does these things to us. Our work, then, is to learn to navigate the minefield. Sure, early on, the pain is intense and real. Truth is, it might never leave us completely. But over time and with intention you will learn how to live a new way, with new joys and new hopes filling the spaces left empty by loss. The loss, however, will always be with you. It’s size may shrink over time and be less invasive or hurtful. But you will never get over it. The best we can do is learn to get through it.
Getting through loss takes time. Like any journey, there will be seasons of growth, green and vibrant. There will be seasons of planting, filled with hope and expectation. There will be seasons of harvest, filled with joyful celebration of hard earned accomplishment. But there will also be seasons of furlough. Times when you have to allow rest, to be empty, and be tilled up by the plough. These times are necessary. Without them, fertile seasons of planting, growing, and harvesting will not happen. Sometimes, we have to accept that we are in such a season and rest patiently until the nutrient of our soil are replenished by rain and flood. Sometimes, by the decay and decomposition of what was, we will be renewed and enriched.
I leave you with this poem by Audette Fulbright Fulson title Prayer for the Morning:
Did you rise this morning,
broken and hung over
with weariness and pain
and rage tattered from waving too long in a brutal wind?
Get up, child.
Pull your bones upright
gather your skin and muscle into a patch of sun.
Draw breath deep into your lungs;
you will need it
for another day calls to you.
I know you ache.
I know you wish the work were done
with everyone you have ever loved
were on a distant shore
safe, and unafraid.
But remember this,
tired as you are:
you are not alone.
and here also
there are others weeping
and gathering their courage.
You belong to them
and they to you
we will break through
and bend the arc of justice
all the way down
into our lives.
I came across this poem years ago. It reminds me that everyday I wake up aching and hurting from the struggle, that there are others out there in the world doing the same. Regardless of our disposition, cheery or reluctant, we each awake with hopes and dreams of better days. In doing so we join the happy union of hopeful laborers who belong not to themselves alone, but to the whole. We join a weeping world expectant and full of hope that all wrongs will be made right and justice will be bent toward us all.
Love and Light!