Our First Pandemic

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I think we’re doing okay, all things considered.  I have a friend who says each time we start to go astray: “Remember that it’s our first time going through a pandemic.”

Of course we’re not going to get it perfect.  Of course we’re not going to get it right.  Of course we’re going to have ups and downs and of course we’re going to go astray.  

We’re never going to know what it is we should have done, except maybe in hind sight, but it’s truly not fair to judge ourselves on what we know then that we didn’t know now.  We’re doing the best we can.  Sometimes, we make mistakes.  Sometimes, we wish we’d done better.  But, hey, it’s our first time going through a pandemic. I think we’re doing okay and we’re learning with every mistake and every win.  

Each of us is in our own daring and our own bravery. Each of us has taken risks.  Each of us has faced our own ignorance.  Each of us has our mistakes and our own wish-we-had-done-differentlies (yes, I know that’s not a word).  Each of us has experienced our emotional ups and downs.  

The interesting thing about the pandemic is that our very real lives and our other very real issues didn’t suddenly go away. The other things we were struggling with didn’t suddenly stop.  Ok, some of them might have faded in the shadows of sudden new and bigger issues.  For the most part, though, we still had our joys, our sorrows, and our concerns.  In many cases, they got more troublesome and more difficult to deal with.  There are many examples, but I think, in particular, of the challenges of getting care for our other very real medical conditions this past year.  It is easy to forget that the pandemic came on top of our already very full lives, except for those living it.  

The messages of faith and spirituality became more poignant.  All that we have practiced and pondered over our lives became our life lines.  Perhaps we didn’t name them faith practices, but our anchors were definitely rooted in the practices deeper than just body and mind.  Care of the self included soul care. Maybe “soul” is not the perfect word, but it’ll do.  

We found ourselves putting what we learned into practice.  Practice. Practice is not perfection.  Striving for perfection can be its own fail.  

It was not to judge the world that God sent his Son into the world, but that through him the world might be saved.

What have we learned?  Without judging ourselves or others, can we reflect and learn?  

Never hurt anyone.  Love thy neighbor has been a big one for the pandemic.  It’s why we wear a mask and stay home. Often it’s not for ourselves, but to protect others.  Our neighbors.  Love thy enemy.  It’s so hard when we see others doing what seems to be unsafe.  It takes courage not to judge.  It takes more courage to speak out kindly.  

Forgiveness needs to come next.  Definitely when we think of others, but also for ourselves.  Be forgiving when we don’t know the answers.  Be forgiving when we aren’t perfect.  Forgiving ourselves for our moments, maybe even long ones, of fear and feeling like a failure when things came crashing down.  Forgiveness is the key that unlocks us from what’s holding us to the things we can not change.  

Faith and Trust.  Faith in the power of love. Faith in the bigger something we can’t possibly know or understand.  Trust enough to settle into the Mystery.  Trust that there is far more Goodness than not.  It’s easy to think everything is falling to pieces and that nothing will ever be the same again.  It won’t, but that’s because it never is, pandemic or no.  It does no good to cling to and lament that inevitable change.  We have learned to find enough Grace in ourselves to surrender to that which we can not know: faith to trust in God and Grace.  Trust that if we walk the Path of Grace, perhaps the path that Jesus taught us, we have done enough.  Surrendering to, and trusting, the greater Mystery.  

Rest.  The seventh day probably isn’t a luxury item.  Who’s tired?  Who’s beyond tired?  Who’s still pushing themselves beyond their limits without reprieve?  That is too much time in the desert, the wilderness. There’s a Sunday each week for a reason.  We have an unhealthy relationship with rest.  To the point where we sometimes wonder what’s wrong when…we’re just tired.  We’ve turned rest into a failure, but rest is a gift and a necessity.  We might not be practicing it, but we have realized the importance of rest.  

Respect for our elders.  For the first time ever, we collectively miss and appreciate our Grandmas and Grandpas.  We wouldn’t mind hearing the same story repeated over and over right about now.  May we always remember this moment.  Without our elders, we have realized how important they are to our society and collective wellness.  

We even experienced a relationship with taking more than we need.  It could be called “stealing”.  Is it stealing when we take more than we need?  When we hoard more than we need?  Remember, our core message of the week is not to Judge, it’s to reflect.  We laugh now, but there was a lot to learn in the toilet paper scarcity.  What happened when we were faced with scarcity of something that is vital to our daily lives?  That was something new for us.  How did we respond when we were suddenly confronted with a grown up version of how to share?  How were we able to share, but not to our own detriment, because, let’s face it, we do all need toilet paper.  Were we confident enough to share when we weren’t sure how long the crisis would last or confident that someone would help us if needed?    

We may have also realized how much we take for granted and how much we overuse and waste. Did we begin to reduce our use of paper products?  Are we still aware, appreciative, and reducing, because toilet paper is pretty awesome?  

We have been deeply immersed in a year of sacrifice.  Another friend shares “nuggets she has heard recently”. This morning she writes: there can not be change without loss.  We have made deep sacrifices this past year. We sacrificed our social lives, parties, events, even visiting family, for the greater good.  We had to find balance in supporting things we loved, while practicing safety.  We sacrificed.  A lot.  

We learned how important things were that we very much took for granted. We learned how important each and every one of us is.  We learned to appreciate our church as a collective of people.  We learned to appreciate church as the building that is our “home”.  

The beauty to come is a resurrection.  What is coming is going to be most important as we take the lessons and allow them to guide us in moving forward.  One of the most important lessons will be not to judge, ourselves or others.  It might be easy to look back with judgement and hate.  To criticize.  Or we could take the path of courage and look back with compassion, love, and kindness.  We might choose to learn without abusing the mistakes we made when we didn’t know better.  

Already when we look back at the lessons, we can laugh at our failures.  Toilet paper meme, anyone?  We can laugh at the fear and anxiety of the moment and be glad we shared, glad we wore a mask, glad we stayed home when it was necessary.  

I think the lesson is that, just as God did not send his only begotten Son to judge this world, but to make it better.  We, too, can choose to not judge, but to be a part of making the world better.  

It was not to judge the world that God sent his Son into the world, but that through him the world might be saved.

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