I feel like I talk and write a fair amount about us seeing the Imago Dei (the image of God) in others and allowing that vision to shape how we respond to those around us. Right now though I want to remind each of us that the same Imago Dei is upon each of us.
God created you, He shaped you, and He placed that His image upon you. You are important, you are loved, you are not rejected,or left alone. You bear the Imago Dei and you are special as a result.
During our present isolation, some of the worst voices in our lives and heads can begin to shout the opposite very loudly.
“You aren’t doing as well as others!” “You are rejected!” “You aren’t loved!” “You’ve messed everything up!” “You are alone because you are unlovely!”
These voices are from the Accuser. They aren’t from the One Whose image you bear. Jesus said that whatever we do for “the least of these brothers and sisters” of His we did for Him because they bear His image.
We need to remember that sometimes we are “the least of these”
Dr. Crace makes seven suggestions for dealing with the anxiety that often happens during times like we are presently going through. I thought they were practical and helpful. You can listen to his full interview in the podcast but I will list his bullet points here, with a brief description beside each:
Focus on effective versus ineffective fear. There is a response to fear that motivates us to take action and one that paralyzes us. In faith, I would describe this as the difference between conviction and guilt. One pushes you to do better, while the other leads to inaction.
Become values focused amidst uncertainty. Knowing what is most important to you is a really good thing to know in fearful situations. Knowing your “one thing” gives you the strength to make good choices. That “one thing” is your North Star and you can navigate when you know where your “North Star” is.
Understand your personal experience and change and loss. Often we need to be able to talk about our fear and worries but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone needs to hear our fear and worries. Be observant of who talking about your fears with helps you and them and who it might affect negatively.
Realize that fear often makes possibility seem like probability. Fear can make the highly unlikely seem suddenly very likely. We need to plan for and react to the probable, rather than allowing any small possibility to control our everyday behavior. It is possible that I snake will make its way through a house’s plumbing and be in the toilet when you sit down, but it isn’t very likely. Realize that when we are scared we often think they near impossible is highly probable.
Stay informed, not stuck. Knowing the news can be a good thing. Staying informed is good. Yet spending all out time focused on the latest bit of news can send us down a spiral that is destructive. Follow the news but maybe skip the news shows and news entertainment.
Realize the difference between soothing & self-care. Self-care is helpful. It helps us to go forward and face difficult circumstances. Soothing eases pain but doesn’t necessarily help us to face difficult circumstances. Self-care is healthy. Soothing isn’t necessarily healthy. It can often be destructive.
Courage training – realize that struggling isn’t bad. Courage is doing the right thing even when you are struggling with fear. It implies struggle. Therefore, struggle isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So if you are struggling don’t think that it is necessarily a bad thing.
I thought these were good and helpful points so I wanted to share them.
This morning as I was prepping to walk Clive and stretch my legs I mentioned to Pam that I feel like I haven’t had a day off in a month. Then while I was walking Clive and listening to the latest episode of the great podcast The Mockingcast, low and behold they mentioned how they felt the same way.
It really isn’t that I feel overworked. I don’t. It is more that I feel like I haven’t been able to stop thinking about and doing small things related to my two jobs (both of which I love). There is always something else that can be done and not really a way to escape it. I can always send out another email, work on another Sunday video gathering, write another devotional or email, etc., etc. and for many of us the means to do these things are in the workspaces that we have created for ourselves. Our workspace is now in our homes and our “office hours” are pretty much 24/7.
This doesn’t mean that I am productive 24/7, actually quite the opposite. I think I am less productive because I feel that I am working all the time. Worse still I don’t know how to live out the Sabbath now.
I believe the Sabbath in scripture is a purposeful act of trust and rest. It is an act of trust because it is an acknowledgment that we are dependent upon God. To not work one day a week, and once a year seven years, in an agrarian society is an amazing act of trust. It is pure reliance. I feel pretty good about trusting the Lord right now. A pandemic has a tendency to remind one that you aren’t in control. The bigger issue for me right now is the idea of rest that is involved in the Sabbath.
The Sabbath says “it is enough”. We can rest because we don’t have to achieve more or do more. We stop and rest because with God there is enough and there is no need to achieve, acquire, or do more. But now there is always the possibility of doing more. There are only so many times that I can walk Clive around the block, take him for a ride, or go for a run to escape this. So I think “well I can work on that” and I give into it.
In normal times I would go fishing or go somewhere to make it where I couldn’t work, but that isn’t really an option during the “safer at home” situation we are presently in and the weather in Wisconsin is that terrible time when it isn’t cold enough for Winter sports and too cold for Spring outdoor activities.
I know there are bigger issues in the world, but right now I am trying to figure out how to practice Sabbath in the pandemic because I think it is very important.
I love Holy Week. I love preparing for it each year through Lent. I love setting up for the extra gatherings (after all I often say that setup is often my favorite part of Tapestry’s worship gatherings). I love coming together to read Mark 14-15 during our Tenebrae gathering and being with each other while walking out of that gathering in silence and darkness each year. I love seeing everybody on Resurrection Sunday, Easter, and seeing who decided to dress up or actually wear a fancy hat to church (we aren’t a dressy congregation but I could get into being a fancy hat church). I love eating Easter lunch with others who join us almost every year. I love the joy that is a part of each of these elements of Holy Week and I believe they are an appropriate reminder of the resurrection of the Son of God. I love Holy Week.
Which is why Holy Week 2020 stunk.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for what we were still able to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am grateful for the technology that enabled us to communicate with each other during the week, to worship together through so many people sharing their talents and time to video various elements of our worship gathering. I so appreciate seeing many friends on Saturday when they came by the house to pick up jambalaya and communion bread, that the Holte’s graciously made. But that comes back to why Holy Week 2020 stunk.
Even when I was able to connect with people I couldn’t actually connect with them. I lament that we were merely “sort of” coming together. It was by video or at a distance of 6′ to 12′. It was with a protective “film” around our interaction and contact. We didn’t really come together during Holy Week, we just seemed to come close to one another. When we should have been experiencing God’s joy in the resurrection, the Godhead’s exuberant joy of no longer being separated, through us coming together in communion, instead, we held communion while we were each isolated in our homes. This isn’t the way it is supposed to be. It isn’t how we were meant to celebrate the death of death in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Easter is the reminder of that first great getting up morning and when we got up we weren’t together. We barely moved from our beds to our couches. Holy Week 2020 stunk.
I know for many people the videos and phone calls may always be the best, or at least most consistent, means they have for connecting with others and I am thankful for such advances that enable this contact. Certain challenges may keep them from being able to be with others. I love the fact that I can use Duo to video-call Adam in Minneapolis pretty much anytime I want, but I would never consider such calls as good as being with him. They aren’t. I am so grateful for Google Hangouts, Zoom, Discord, Duo, Webex and the other video/internet technologies for the distances and challenges that they allow us to sort of reach past, but they only “sort of” reach past those distances and challenges. Just “sort of”.
To paraphrase Douglas Adam these technologies are “almost, but not quite, entirely unlike” actually being with each other. They are definitely better than nothing but realistically they lead to me thinking more and more “How long O Lord?” They don’t satiate my desire to connect with those I love (a desire that I believe honors God) but they lead me to longing for it all the more, which I believe is a good, but also painful, thing. It reminds me how much I love these people who help me to follow the Risen Savior. Seeing everyone on my television is sweet but it is a bittersweetness because it reminds me of what I was missing during Holy Week.
This isn’t the way it is supposed to be. It isn’t the way we will eternally celebrate communion with God, each other, and creation in the new world that has no sea. This past week my family and I remembered when God chose isolation to save us from the isolation we face in a world “bent” by sin, and we did so isolated from the rest of the world and the ones we love who are created in the image of the Triune God.
Holy Week 2020 sucked … still I am thankful for it … but it sucked compared to what it usually is.