My office is on the first floor of the church. But up on the third floor in a small corner is a study where I like to hide away to write sermons. I have always loved that room, free of interruptions to think and pray and reflect. But three years ago this week, in what felt like the blink of an eye, that sweet little study became a war room or a foxhole where I had to decide what to do to keep our congregation safe from an encroaching global pandemic that raced its way from the coasts to the middle of our country. Within two hours I decided, while pacing on my cell phone in that little study, that Sunday worship would move immediately to online, that the church’s fundraiser auction would be postponed, and that the long-awaited gifts campaign for building renovations would hit pause.
After months of working from home, the church staff and I returned to the church building and worship and in-person events resumed but for reasons that have been unclear to me, I have not been able to sit down in that study again to pray, read, and write. But then last week I read a magazine article about the oral history project in New York. A team of researchers began interviewing ordinary people about their reactions to the pandemic in March of 2020. They interviewed them again in 2021 and 2022. But by 2022, many of the participants refused to come in for the interviews. Some wouldn’t even return the phone calls. It was too painful. Too difficult. And that is when it began to dawn on me. My resistance to that room I once loved is grief.
Many of us have said that our lives were relatively unscathed by the pandemic. We didn’t lose a loved one or a job. We had the resources to get through and maybe even found some silver linings. But many of us, even those who soldiered through it, lost something significant. And maybe that loss still deserves to be grieved. Maybe without acknowledging our loss and grief, we will miss the opportunity to grow through the pain.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her book “God in Pain:”
There is nothing in that gospel about being impressive or successful. There is nothing in it about being the biggest or the best at anything at all. The good news of God in Christ is that when the bottom has fallen out from under you—when you have crashed through all your safety nets and you can hear the bottom rushing up to meet you—the good news is that you cannot fall farther than God can catch you. . . . . . God is able to take our weakness, our fear, our trembling, and turn it into fullness of life.
Grace and Peace,