In these recent weeks as the coronavirus continues to spread all over the world, I have questioned posting some of my Lenten meditations. They often seem so irrelevant to the stresses of these times. I wonder, can anyone even care about such Lenten reflections while we worry about the health, safety, isolation, financial losses, job insecurities, and time frames for ourselves and our loved ones? And yet, I sense I am not alone in my longing for a bit of normalcy amid this turbulence, and so I will continue to offer the Lenten meditations as I normally would.
Today I would like to share a few thoughts I have had and some ideas I have learned in this time of the coronavirus threat. I hope that some ideas will resonate with you, or inspire you, or bless you in a new way.
~ What is your go-to practice in times of anxiety?
Jim and I were comparing ours this morning. I find my relief in tidying and organizing. (Perhaps this offers me a small sense of being able to control what I can in times of uncertainty.) I am mindful of the peaceful rituals of regular tasks, such as brewing a pot of coffee, making the bed, and doing my morning walks. I have already organized our food pantry shelves, shredded old documents, and cleaned a closet.
Jim finds his relief in community. (Perhaps this serves as a distraction from himself and his worry, while nurturing his relational spirit.) He is often reaching out to our family, friends, church members, and acquaintances with texts or phone calls. Each morning this week, he has helped distribute meals to students in our community (while keeping his distance).
Think about what healthy coping practices help to bless and calm your spirit, and be mindful of doing them often.
~ How are you spending your days?
Our friend Kurt and I discovered that in times of limbo, we tend to put our lives in a ‘limbo’ holding pattern. For example, each of us went through periods of unemployment. Because we didn’t know how long we would be without work, we wasted much of the free time we had. Had he or I known that we would find work in say, three months, we would have told ourselves, “I have three months to accomplish some projects or do some fun things that I normally wouldn’t have time to do!”
We do not know how long we will remain as homebound as possible, but we can create our own timeline to guide our days and weeks. We can imagine life will return to normal in a certain time frame. What would we want to do in this time? It may be helpful to make a list of one thing to do each day. Go for a walk. Do one act of kindness. Do one task you have been setting aside.
Another idea I have is to create themes for each day. For example, have a Project Day to accomplish something at home, and a Fun Day to watch movies, eat popcorn, play games and read books, and a Spirit Day to write, do a personal retreat, read an inspirational book, or listen to a contemplative podcast, and a Care Day to write or call people who are isolated, or send notes to those who are under stress (hospital workers, nursing home personnel, etc.).
When this time is finally over, we will be able to look back and see how we made the most of a very challenging season.
~ Where do you see the constancy of God’s presence?
When our lives are in chaos, we still know that God is our constant, loving, unchanging presence. We can observe God’s presence in all of God’s creation. Yesterday I noticed the buds on the trees, the daffodils and crocuses blooming. Signs of spring are all around; the seasons will continue to change. Sunrises and sunsets continue. Birdsong is just as glorious. We don’t have a pet, but animals also provide a source of constant love and acceptance- their peaceful presences are blessings, too.
Our observation of God in all of creation can be a source of great peace and serenity. Be aware and mindful of our awesome God who is still with us in all things.
~ Do you see how your social distancing and isolation are not only keeping you safer, but that you are also blessing others?
There are times we may be tempted to take our chances with the virus, maybe even find ourselves just wanting to get this over with. But if we have unexpected complications we may need a hospital bed. We will be exposing our precious doctors, nurses and hospital staff with the virus. We will be taking a bed from someone who truly needs it- a pregnant mom, a sick child, a cancer patient.
The more we take these precautions seriously, the better off we ALL will be.
~ Finally, what is this time inviting you to learn?
In this Lenten season, we remember how Jesus went into the wilderness to face so many trials and temptations, each time surrendering them to God. He came out of that time with his certain and true mission, his ability to rely on God for all that he needed, and his strength from God to face every trial that still lay ahead.
Our wilderness times help us to grow. In this wilderness season, I am noticing an invitation to greater vulnerability. My love, care and concern for my loved ones and all people of the world seem to be deepening in greater compassion and tenderness. The fragile preciousness of each life is clear and dear to me. God seems to be calling me to do all I can to care for others, in prayer and in action and attentiveness.
I am also noticing an invitation to abide. I am seeing this time as an opportunity to abide in the constant, peaceful presence of God through the tumult. To remain patient and to be an example of peace for others. To live with the uncertainty by trusting in the Certainty.
May we all journey through this wilderness as one, separated physically but united spiritually. May we look upon each day as a step further into kindness and compassion, another step into deeper humility and generosity. May we cling to God, our Source of all that we need, the One who accompanies us all the way.
This too, shall pass, dear friends. Take care of you, so that you may take care of one another.