There is a good chance that this is going to wear on you at some point: social isolation, being stuck at home, mumble-singing with worship songs, the same old house-mates every day, place your personal pet peeve here ___________.
Before I get into my version of “think happy thoughts” let me make sure you all understand that I am not saying there is no room for frustration. I am also not saying you should not express your feelings – all of them. Just make sure you are wise in how and where you do so. Neither do all of your venting with the people with whom you spend most of your time (especially when venting about the people with whom you live), nor do your venting to the entire world via Facebook or an ad in the newspaper or a sign on your front lawn. (I should probably pause here to say that Ruth Ann and I are doing really, really well through this. Really.) Do vent: but vent with someone well chosen to handle it. Vent with a close friend. Vent with God (He kinda already knows how you feel anyway). There are plenty of Psalms that help you vent. They are called the psalms of LaVent, I believe.
Now think happy thoughts. In Christianese that translates to “count your blessings.” Hopefully such counting is not about keeping score: “at least I am not as bad off as so-and-so” or “they are so lucky, because they have….” Robert Farrar Capon wrote “whoever keeps score loses” as his understanding of what Jesus taught in the parables. Count yours, not other people’s blessings.
Think about good, true, beautiful, gracious and right things. Philippians 4 both challenges us to drop anxiety by leaving it with God in prayer, and to focus on what is positive. We do both because we have, or are working on, trust in God that just like he had things in hand when Jesus cried “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”, he has things in hand now too. In the midst of death we see resurrection potential.
So here are some places I am seeing life right now.
- Tulips…literal, bless my Dutch green-thumbed heart, new life. That sign of spring: bulbs poking their tips out in a dead world. Tulips and snow-drops too. I saw snow-drops while it was snowing last week.
- Sunshine. I learned when we lived in Alaska for a year that I have some degree of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). In the long winter of really short days, the difference between a few hours of sunny daylight as opposed to cloudy daylight was very real.
- Humor. Don’t laugh at misfortune; but do laugh through it. Having a good laugh is good for you, so talk to funny people, listen to funny songs, find your funny bone and have it tickled.
- Family. (those living elsewhere) (remember, Ruth Ann and I are doing fine). We have regularly done FaceTime (phone call with pictures) with our children. This usually includes #3 above. Double good. This past week my siblings decided to get together on Zoom (like facetime but with meeting options). It struck me when we were done that normally we don’t talk together unless there is some family gathering. Usually we get together for major birthdays or when my East Coast sister comes to Ontario. I’m not sure if any of you were aware, but all the technology we are using to communicate was available years ago already. The beautiful life I see in this one is that we are taking the time to talk to the people that are important to us in ways we thought we were too busy to do before.
- Creative fortitude. Teachers learning to teach online, preachers learning to preach online, and pretty much everyone being creative in finding ways to endure (and even sometimes enjoy) social distancing and isolation. As I talk with people I am impressed with the calm character and dedicated determination to thrive through this time. As I work with church staff and teams, I see a commitment to caring for each other. That is beautiful.
That is my short list. I don’t mean to be exhaustive and I don’t want these weakly writings to become exhausting. My hope is that by sharing some of what I am seeing God doing among us, I might encourage you to keep trusting that God has us all in his hands, and to keep looking for signs of life around you.
Blessings and peace to you all.