Thursday, August 20, 2020

We are all in this together


Hello St. Paul’s,

The other day I sent an email to a couple of my chamber music friends, just to check in. We haven’t been able to play together since February, and I have been strangely reluctant to pick up my viola and practice it during the pandemic, although I have, strangely, been playing the piano. I was curious to know how other musicians were coping. My friends responded that they too have been neglecting their instruments, or, in the case of one multi-talented individual, some of his instruments. All of us have remained healthy and haven’t suffered economically, so it’s a bit of a mystery why we would stop doing something that gives us so much joy, just when you might think we would have lots of extra time to do it.

I know how well off I am. Each morning I thank God for another day of health and another day of opportunities to work with people I love. Nevertheless, I confessed to my friends that I have ups and downs, and one responded with dismay, because he has only ever seen me being cheerful and upbeat.

I think a lot of us have been putting on a brave face for many weeks, and I have to wonder how much longer we can keep it up. I’m noticing some frayed tempers and increasing crankiness in our community. I think there’s a lot of pent-up suffering out there, whether the cause is a lost job, or a delayed surgery, or terror of getting sick. And there are people who are just angry: angry about having to stay home, angry at having to wear a mask, angry at losing a vacation or an income, angry at the roller-coaster of closures and reopenings.

I get it: believe me, I get it. We’ve been trying to launch our outdoor worship, and every time we are ready to go, something happens and we have to change it again. We are trying to plan for the future, but every plan has to be hedged around with conditionals, like “in the event of” and “Unless…”. And then there is the pressure to feel and express compassion and outrage for other terrible things that are happening, like police brutality, or extreme weather. I wonder if you feel as exhausted as I do when people demand strong reactions. I know I’m not alone in sometimes wanting to say, “I wish I could care more, but I only have room for so much caring, and I’m pretty full up right now.”

So, what do we do about this frustration, this anger, this depression, this compassion fatigue? We are people of faith. We trust in the promises of God. We have a treasury of tradition to fall back on. We have familiar prayers and Scripture passages that we can recite together or alone. The Psalms provide for expression of every emotion known to humanity. And we have each other. Maybe we can dare to let someone know what we are feeling. Maybe we can invite a friend to share their burden, not with any expectation that we can fix it, but with the assurance that we are all in this together. Let’s be kind to each other and offer a listening and confidential ear.

And meanwhile, for our own comfort, here’s a slightly modified prayer from the Prayer Book: Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through these times of frustration, sadness, and impatience, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness.; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

See you on Sunday.

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