Challenging times

(Note: I shared this with the subscribers on my email list, but wanted to share it with you as well.)

As some have observed on social media, who thought it was a good idea to revisit 1918 (pandemic) AND 1968 (riots for racial justice)?

Challenging times.

You may feel overwhelmed right now. You may be angry or sad or frustrated or wondering where the pause button is because you are tired of thinking so much. You maybe deeply grieving. You may be feeling all of the above daily. Or hourly.

Here are some thoughts for facing such a time.

1. Don't listen to your inner judge.
I team co-teach a Sunday School class at my church, and since we've gone to online services have been doing our lessons as a video (shared with the class, the church and my Heart Callings group.) I really enjoy doing them, and as is the case with anything that we do, some weeks are better than others. The other day I caught myself thinking that I just wasn't doing a very good job with it.

Well, that's my old inner judge popping up. I'm not going for a grade, but in each week I do the best I can do in that given week. It's all I can do. It's all any of us can do. We cannot measure the best we have today by the theoretical best of a time with no pandemic. 

2. Do listen to your inner challenger.
Talking with a colleague the other day about all that was happening in the United States, he mentioned that he felt so helpless. Maybe you do, too. My response to him was that we all have the power to work on ourselves.

It's easy for me to point fingers at people whose sins are blatant and public and captured on video. It's harder for me to look inside my own self for the shadowy places that need light. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross used to say that within us all is a Mother Teresa. And a Hitler. Our work is to deal honestly with both of those realities.

Such work won't change the world. But it can change the worlds in which we live and work and worship, because it changes us. And because we are changed we move through here world differently. One of the cool things about being a therapist is seeing the ripple effects: as people heal, it changes how they are with their families and in their jobs, and those things change for the better as well.

3. Do listen to people who are different from you and who make you uncomfortable.
As I wrote this week to the folks on My Monday Morning Manna list, my greatest spiritual discipline over the last couple of years has been to shut up. And listen.

Listen to the people who make you uncomfortable. Listen to the people who tell you hard truths that you wish weren't true about the institutions and people whom you love, the truths you've been able to ignore. Listen to the people whose experience is almost unimaginable in your own life. Listen to the people whose pain makes you want to weep, and then allow yourself those tears. Listen without jumping in to explain away or justify yourself (but I'm not like that) and honor the truth that this is indeed their experience. These days I think a lot about the line from St. Francis of Assisi's prayer: May I not so much seek to be understood as to understand.

4. Do listen to the Spirit. 
This past weekend the weather was beautiful where I live, and I spent many hours working in my yard. That's one of the ways in which I listen to the Spirit, grounding myself in God's creation. I listen through scripture, through other people, through the birds that even now are singing all around me as I write this.

We are a people commanded to let justice roll down like mighty waters. We are commanded to tend to the poor and the hungry and the imprisoned. We are commanded to love God, love our neighbors (even when they come disguised as people not like us), and love ourselves. On any given day that's a tall order.

But especially in these days.

So we listen to the Spirit who nudges and compells and sometimes gives us a swift kick in the pants to the places to which we'd rather not go. We listen to the Spirit who reminds us that is it not all up to us, but that God continues to work in us and sometimes, in spite of us.

This may be the beginning of a new and more just chapter, one that comes with much work and much courage and the willingness to let go of power and positions that some of us have held onto because they felt safe and familiar. It may be the birth pangs of a society in which the differences between us are a source of delight and not danger. 

Or we may turn away from the moment.

I encourage you to listen to the Spirit, to lean upon it and to lean upon each other.

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