The church council met on retreat at Camp Lutherhaven on a Saturday in April. It was a beautiful spring day with sun shining and white cumulus clouds in the sky, with a slight breeze. There were quilters there at the camp and a father-son work day going on. If you did not know any better you would assume that life was back to normal, except for the masks on the staff.
That morning, the council talked about the future and we tossed out and batted around ideas, focused on a few, but what was most memorable to me was the “check-in” time. We went around the room and talked about what we had lost and what we had gained in the last 12 months. What had the pandemic taken from us and what did it give us? One of our members was not there that day because of a death in the family. And that was very apropos. We all talked about what we had lost over the course of this pandemic, the death of loved ones, the absence from family and friends, and other sorts of losses and endings. Of course, there were silver linings, unexpected joys and blessings amidst all the loss, but to live well is to grieve well.
You have heard me speak about grief before. I think it is a neglected aspect of our emotional and spiritual health. Grief is the dirty dishes in our emotional sink that we think we can avoid by ignoring. It does not work that way. Grief that is not attended to will make us sick. It keeps us from connecting with others and ourselves. It can lead to depression and feelings of isolation and hopelessness. To live well we have to grieve well. We have to pay attention to all our griefs, all our losses, and work through them. I think the problem is that this pandemic has caused so much grief for some, that it is overwhelming, and for others it has been a low-grade “background” sort of grief that can easily be discounted or ignored. Both responses are problematic. Even as we have persevered through these strange and difficult times, even as we seem to be coming out on the other side of it, we as a church and as individuals need to take time to acknowledge what we have lost since March 11, 2020, the day the global pandemic was declared. Some losses are hard to see, some are hard to admit, but all need to be grieved. It does not show a lack of faith to be sad. It is not a “downer” to talk about what we have lost.
As a church, usually one of us has experienced a loss and the others can gather around and offer support. But when everyone is dealing with loss, well, that will make the love and support more difficult to give but all the more important. At Pentecost the tongues of fire rested on ALL their heads.
What have you lost in the last 12 months? What have you gained? Please find someone you can talk to about this. And then do it. (the dirty dishes aren’t going to clean themselves)
Pastor Bob Albing