We are about to head into month nine of the pandemic in the United States. It seems rather shocking to look back and realize we’ve been navigating social distancing, masking, virtual worship services and programs for nine months. I was ordained in November of 2019, and we’re now in November 2020 — meaning the majority of my ordained ministry has taken place during COVID-19. It’s been a unique first year in ordained ministry, to say the least.
While I have longed for more time with teenagers, the youth I have been able to spend time with have consistently delighted me. While I deeply miss my parents, I am grateful for the ways my wife and I (and our dog Otis) have cared for one another, for the way we’ve learned to navigate conflict while spending more time together than ever before. While growing as an ordained pastor in a pandemic is an intimidating challenge, I’ve found great comfort in rereading my favorite books, watching old movies, and having long phone calls with old friends who live far away.
I know I am among the elite in this regard - hundreds of thousands of Americans have died because of this terrible virus. Thousands more have lost work, lost a loved one, lost income, lost housing, so many people have simply lost. Many Thanksgiving tables will have empty chairs. For the first time in decades, there won’t be a Thanksgiving Pancake Breakfast hosted by the youth of BMPC. We won’t have parades, or turkey trots, or, as my family would, trips to the movie theater to see the latest holiday blockbuster.
This year is a time unlike any other. We are all experiencing grief, frustration, pandemic exhaustion, screen fatigue, hotly-debated family differences, and many other struggles.
But at least today - because who knows about tomorrow - I find profound comfort in the fact that I am never truly alone. God is with me. God is within me. God is around me. God’s love saturates the very air I breathe, every cell in my body. I’m confident there will be plenty of days during this continuing pandemic when I will feel angry, heartbroken and profoundly sad.
But today, as I look around my office, my eyes are drawn to the plants in my window (all succulents, of course). Today is a day when, as on the days I actually remember to water my plants, I experience nourishment: The Spirit feels close, and I feel nurtured by the sun. Tomorrow may be cloudy and dry, and I may not be watered for a month, but today I have enough. And that is extravagant.
In the days to come, when we experience a famine of family traditions and time with those we love, may we recall those moments of extravagant enough-ness. May we remember the times we were surrounded by people we loved and who loved us, times when we laughed so hard we cried, or breathed so deeply it felt like our whole body was filled with light, times when we experienced the perfect hug or snuggle, or put on the most glorious pair of comfy socks. May those little moments of grace sustain us. Grieve, as you need, feel sad as you are sad, angry as you are angry, and do your best to remember those times when you experienced grace. May those little moments of grace sustain us in this time of trial, and may we never forget that we know the ending of the story - that love wins.