It seems kind of redundant to say we are living in a strange time right now. So many activities and actions that we have never done before suddenly seem to be something that happens all the time. Before March, I never, ever, ever, wore a face mask to go to the grocery store. I never really thought of which finger of which hand I should sacrifice to open a door, and where on the handle I should grasp. I never before used the word “pandemic” in normal conversation. I’ve also never seen so many dogs walked daily, sometimes two or three times a day. I can imagine them hiding out in a closet or behind the couch, because frankly, they are worn out exhausted!
Even more than the actions we have taken up as “normal,” it’s a bit sad, frankly, to think about all of the activities and experiences we normally do or would have done, that are gone for a time, and some will never be retrieved. Spring sporting events, last days of school for the summer, high school and college graduation. Prom. Summer vacation trips or airline flights. And for me personally, as I awaken to my 10th day of retirement, as I have spoken on the phone to a couple of different folks, I have also been awakened to the fact that there will never be a public celebration of my retirement. Yes, my family gave me some nice gifts and we had a nice meal – at home – but in a normal time, as someone would retire from active ministry, there would be a couple of different opportunities at our annual conference to be recognized, and to say a few words and simply receive the congratulations from colleagues at coffee breaks – and to say goodbye. That didn’t happen. It’s never going to happen. The next time they all gather will be a different season, with a different focus, different limitations and requirements, and to stretch all the way back to July to celebrate sometime which at that point was long past – the occasion of retirement – well, that just seems awkward, to say the least.
Please know that I am not writing this with tears running down my face, blurring my vision – I’m really fine with it, and I feel much sadder about the millions of students who were not allowed the traditional rites of passage as they moved to a new stage of life. My rite of passage has been to shave infrequently, and dress in messy clothes if it pleases me. Of course, that didn’t begin July 1! My pre-retirement stretched from my last face-to-face meeting in early March, so I was well prepared to assume retirement living by the time mid-summer rolled around! It’s been weeks since I put on a pair of socks, or even long pants. Delightful, but a bit… disconcerting.
So, we must live through this “season of nots,” and try on phrases like “new normal,” or CoVid, or social distancing, six feet, and we read numbers of folks – our folks – who not only have not been able to do what they would normally have done, but who are no longer alive, due to being at the very wrong place, at the very wrong time, with the very wrong circumstances in their lives that meant they could not survive. That’s a lot of nots. As we live here, and hopefully survive here in what is a “not normal” time, I want to imagine some other “nots” that we should take up, and claim.
We should “not” live as though the world somehow owes us special consideration, due to the great burdens we have taken on during these months. Surprise – everyone has taken on those burdens, and some are overwhelming as I mentioned. We are “not” the focus of the world’s attention – we are part of a global event, that, if we survive, will give us stories to share for the rest of our lives. We also should “not” assume or nestle on our shoulders the anxiety that is rampant and toxic throughout our entire culture, neighborhoods and even families. We have two adult sons who are living and working from our home these months – the basement belongs to them – while my wife has to go to work as a nurse practitioner, exposed every day to the possibility of losing her own health while she helps others. Anxiety? You can believe it. Things are “not” fun right now – meals are burdensome, plans to go out into the city require not only putting our masks on, but deciding whether we really need to go this time, or just stay home. That’s a huge anxiety maker, and it is repeated and cloned every minute by millions of us, and the way most of us handle it is by reacting to things that are easy triggers – when a big portion of my life and my world seems screwed up, but not something I can fix, I will tend to lash out at smaller, more fragile things, like relationships, communities, daily news, finances. The way in which we work at “not” doing so is again, by acting with a self-awareness of what is truly going on, and then intentionally (there’s that word), responding and not reacting when it appears that icky stuff has been dropped in front of our toes.
We should “not” give up trusting in God’s love for us, or believing that the present burdens will eventually pass, or we shall be given the best path to moving through it all to a future still held in God’s caring hands. I also think this is probably “not” the time to ask the question, “Why?” Why is always the last question answered, and that season has not yet been opened to us. Instead, as we rely on God’s acts toward us, and find even that peace that passes our understanding, perhaps we will be the ones who CAN care for this world in profound and powerful ways.
So – no retirement party. Oh well – my birthday’s in January…
Word for the day: perspicacious. “To have very good judgment – to be discerning.” It’s another Latin word, divied up as “per” – meaning “through” and “specere” “to look at.” When you are perspicacious (per – spi -KAY- shus), you have the ability to see through the problem, the struggle, the issue, and while seeing through it, your inner eyes see the solution, or at least the best path to find the solution. Lots of people are well skilled in seeing the problem. Very few perspicacious people see the best answer. Be one of those.
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.