It’s a great word because it full describes most of American culture today. We are a preoccupied society. Again, it reminds me of, lets say, a box of valuable items that we need to carry/transport somewhere. As soon as we lift the box, however, to move it, someone comes along and fills it with a gallon or two of melted chocolate milk shakes. Now, we were doing pretty well with the box full of stuff, but with milk shake poured in and around all the items, and starting to ooze out of the bottom of the box, and sloshing around on the top, our goal becomes more than just moving the thing, but also trying not to get the sticky messy drippy ice cream all over our shirt or pants – and we can’t set it down anywhere, because it will just ruin wherever we set it down…
Now, imagine the box being the symbol for all things we need to move around in our lives – those normal, workable, sometimes heavy but manageable pieces of “stuff” that make up our regular life. We can handle that, right? And if we get tired, we can always set the box down for a moment and rest, right? Okay, now fill our full life up to the brim with sticky, messy Covid. It just makes things so much more complicated and just harder, from grocery shopping to seeing friends and family, to whatever it takes. We thought we had the mess contained with a nice tightly sealed jar of vaccination – two of them in fact, but somehow, as we are carrying the normal stuff of our lives, it starts oozing out again, and it gets all over our clothes, and runs onto our arms and into our armpits. Yuck. And we really just don’t know how to fix it – and it seems no one else does either.
What happens when that happens, is that even though we are still tasked with carrying our life’s “stuff” around, our pre-occupation of our minds and lives is caught up with messy, oozing mess of a pandemic that just won’t go away. And on top of that, we end up caught in the trial of wanting to go from one place to another, but we are just sticky – and exhausted, and don’t want to play anymore. All the fun and “normal” things we do get shoved to the side while we work to just stay with as little mess as possible.
And that means when we are asked those questions by others that should be fun questions to think about, like, “What do you want for Christmas?” or “Are you dressing up for Halloween?” or even, “What size turkey do you get for Thanksgiving?” Our answers quickly become, “Oh I don’t know – I haven’t thought about it – I’m just trying to move this sticky mess of a life from one place to another right now…” And what should be lots of fun becomes almost more of a burden that’s buried under the dripping mess of CoVid.
I think that’s why, with only a week to Halloween, we had still not bothered to pull out the one bin full of fun little Halloween decorations – the stuffed jack o’lanterns, or the little prizes from McDonald’s past or even some smiling and pretty benign ghosts that can sit on our mantle. We have always loved to put them out, which signified the beginning of an entire three-month cycle of decorating for all the holidays. We’ve done this since the boys were in footie pajamas. It’s just that this year, the effort to do so seemed to require almost more energy than we had, and so we put it all off, for way too long. Of course, add to that the death of Cheri’s mom this past summer, and the work of clearing out her house, and… I’m tired just thinking about it.
However, humans are not created to live in exhaustion and helpless ness. It’s just not who we are! Yesterday, we made a list of the big tasks to get done. We needed to dump the summer flowers, since the freeze has hit twice, and the portulaca plants were all turned to mush. It was time. As it was time to cover the wicker furniture in the gazebo, and put it to bed for the winter. We actually got it all accomplished, and felt pretty good about it, so as we were sitting in the living room, we remembered we had still not moved the antique cherry tall cupboard in from the garage that we brought back from Grafton. Of course, to do that meant that we were going to have to rearrange the living room. We took a deep breath, wiped off the dripping CoVid from our arms, and went to work.
We used to often get “rearranging fever” when we lived in parsonages. It just seemed when we were getting either tired of, or dissatisfied with where we were living, that instead of actually moving, we could just move our inside world a bit, and make things feel pretty new. So we made the changes. It took moving tables, and lamps and couches and arm chairs and shifting the rug and of course, as we moved everything it was a good chance to vacuum up the areas that had been covered by furniture for so long.
With most everything in place, we commandeered the sons to haul the cupboard inside and place it in just the right spot. We moved a framed print on the wall over about three feet, wiped the beautiful thing down with lemon oil, and the entire living room was transformed. It almost seemed like for the first time in a while, things actually worked out very well! That of course led to bringing up the Halloween bin, and filling the upper level of our home with a wonderful festive Halloween spirit.
Late yesterday afternoon, Cheri and I sat down in our living room, and felt that not only was the room rearranged, but our lives as well, for the good. It was the first time in a while when we seemed to be able to agree that something really good and positive happened – nothing was dripping out of the bottom of the box.
Will that all stay? Can’t say for sure, but there sure felt to be a bit more joy and burden when it was all done, and that’s hopeful as we recognize the certain change from late summer to almost mid-autumn. I can expect that we are not done yet with the mess of this pandemic, but at least for a while, it felt like we once again put the lid on it, and hopefully can look at our lives and our world, not as drudgery, but with a sense of joy and anticipation for what’s ahead.
I’ve quoted before that, “Your life is what your mind in full of.” At least for now, at least for us, it became full of some actual fun and some hope. My hope and prayer is that you will also find that breakthrough of joy for your own life and for your family. We are not simply the sum of what the world throws at us. That other great quote is “It’s not what happens to you that matters – it’s what you do with what happens to you that counts.”
Have a great Sunday – and a good week to come.
Word for the day: redintegrate. Pronounced ree-DINT-eh-great. It’s a simple word that unfortunately finds little use today. Of course, it’s Latin, re “again,” and integrare “to make complete.” When we seek to redintegrate, we seek to make things whole again, or to renew, or even to reunite. Some will say it means to bring things back to a perfect state, but I imagine most of us would be satisfied with repairing or restoring, so that what once was, exists again.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.