coronavirus covid grace jan rochardson pandemic school spirituality tired Aug 21, 2020

Note: This week I sent this email out to my subscribers. I received such a heartfelt response to it that I wanted to share it with a wider audience. If you want to subscribe (my emails are reflections such as this, announcements, and sharing things I think might be helpful to you), sign up here.


Do you feel it?

Maybe not you personally, but those around you.

Or maybe exactly you.

There is a weariness in the air. Weariness not just of parents and teachers trying to figure out school, but the weariness that comes with no longer being able to dodge the fact that school won't be "normal" for a long while yet. Weariness that comes from having to reinvent our work, our worship, our lives. Weariness because we just don't know. Weariness with the changes that come too often and weariness with the things that stay too much the same.

As some of you know, back in 2008 I fractured my pelvis in three places. (Technically, it was the car that hit me while I was biking that fractured my pelvis.) As hard as that was, the thing that made it all easier was that I was not the first patient they'd seen who had a fractured pelvis. They knew exactly how the journey was going to progress, and they were exactly right.

But nobody knows the timeline now. Events scheduled for the spring were pushed back to the fall because surely by then it'd be safe to gather... but here we are.

More than once this has made me think about the desert times in scripture. The children of Israel didn't have a road map or timetable either. Elijah wound up there because he was too scared and too exhausted to be anywhere else.

When we're in the desert, we have a choice. We can hunker down and shut down, and the children of Israel did a lot of that, even when their feet were moving. Life used to be so much better. Well, we were slaves, but at least we knew what tomorrow would bring.

Or, we can own our thirst, shout our frustration, and open ourselves to a grace that may yet feed us... but may just as likely transform us. The testimony of Christian spirituality is that we don't come out of a wilderness the same as when we went in.

One of my favorite writers is Jan Richardson (who, incidentally, has a new book out - Sparrow - about her grief with the death of her husband.) I share with you her reflection about the wilderness below.

In the meantime, if the angels invite you to have a snack and take a nap, as they did with Elijah, listen. If you are wearied by the cacophony of voices around you, turn them off, whether it's TV news or social media or your cousin who absolutely knows what should be done.

It may sound counterproductive but lean into the weary. Put your hand upon it, as you do when your stomach growls. Grab onto it with both fists like Jacob, refusing to let it go until you receive or recognize the blessing.

Not because God sends such a time as this to make us all shine even more like sunbeams for Jesus. But because God insists on barging in, even into such a time. Even now when all we can see are the shattered pieces of our days, God is picking up one and then another, mumbling about what it might look like if we put this piece with that, which isn't where it used to go at all. Because God has a way of doing that.

These are hard days.

Hard times.

For some of you more than others.

For all of us, no matter the shape of the wilderness, it may be the place where breath begins.

Where the Breath Begins
(from Circle of Grace)
and dry
and dry in each direction.
Dust dry.
Desert dry.Bone dry.

 And here
in your own heart:
the center of your chest
a bare valley
stretching out every way you turn.

 Did you think
this was where you had come to die?

 It’s true that
you may need
to do some crumbling,
That some things
you have protected
may want to be
laid bare,
That you will be asked
to let go
and let go, yes.

 But listen.
This is what a desert is for.

 If you have come here
if you have come here
then thank your lucky stars
the desert is where
you have landed—
here where it is hard
to hide,
here where it is unwise
to rely on your own devices,
here where you will
have to look
and look again
and look close
to find what refreshment waits to reveal itself to you.

 I tell you,
though it may be hard
to see it now,
this is where
your greatest blessing will find you.

 I tell you,
this is where
you will receive your life again.

 I tell you,
this is where the breath begins.

- Jan Richardson


—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace