“New Normal.” It’s an overused media catchphrase that doesn’t begin to describe what we are going through in 2020. Every day there is something new to face, what we were told yesterday will change tomorrow. The normal setting seems to have disappeared. We’re dealing with constant change and uncertainty, economic instability and isolation from friends and family. Rumours of meat shortages and disruptions in the food production chains add fuel to the fire. Even as some states and provinces begin to open up, routine errands and outings feel alien.
This past Saturday, two friends and I went to a garden centre to pick out flowers for our balconies. I also needed pots for a small indoor vegetable and herb garden. Now before you protest, my two friends and I are collaborating buddies. We are all at the same level of social isolation; we have all agreed to specific protocols. We are not running amuck. The garden centre was not busy, so we didn’t have to line up to enter it. Two of us used masks; one didn’t. I have allergies, so wearing a mask is for the benefit of others. If a random sneeze escapes me, I won’t freak out strangers.
Carefully following the one-way arrow maze, we made our purchases, dropped them off in the car, then stood in line to enter the main part of the store. Masks were in place; hand sanitiser was used to wipe the handle of our shopping cart. There was no browsing, no discussion about potential purchases, no friendly advice given. We made our purchases, then sanitised our hands as soon as we returned to the car.
Instead of going out for lunch, which we would usually do after a shopping trip, we went through a drive-through and came back to my place. It was great to spend a few hours with them, but it was not the same.
My provincial government has allowed churches to reopen but under restrictions. To track potential Covid-19 clusters, churches are required to keep a record of who attends each service. Fifty people or less, including the pastors, worship team, and sound crew. No children’s church, no nursery. My church of about 900 has temporarily opened eight services on Sundays, scattered across my city. Even so, we can only accommodate about half our congregation. I was one of the lucky ones who was allowed to attend church this past Sunday.
It was so good to be back, but as I said earlier, it felt alien. Instead of rows of chairs, chairs were placed in clusters of 1 to 3 chairs each, each small group at least 6 feet apart. Worship at my church is usually loud, and audience participation is strongly encouraged. Government mandates highly discourage congregational singing, and so, I sang quietly under my breath. We were not allowed to linger before and after the service. It felt like home but not home.
This morning, I woke with a heavy heart. At first, I couldn’t pinpoint the cause of such heaviness. I put on some instrumental worship music and sat quietly, allowing the music to wash over me and in me. I invited God to draw near, and so he did. His kindness was tangible. I realised I was grieving. I had a choice to make, I could soldier on, or I could be vulnerable with my Abba God and pour out my heart.
I missed not having to think about my safety and the safety of others when I entered a store. I missed not having to talk beyond the plexiglass barrier between myself and the cashiers. I missed being able to let them see my smile in thanks for their service. I mourned the loss of sharing a meal in a restaurant with the hum of other table’s chatter and the busyness of the servers going about their work. I missed worshipping in a crowded church full of fellow believers who gave their 100 per cent during worship. I even missed pressing through the mob of people in the lobby after church. I miss not being able to hop on a bus and head down the highway to visit my family, a few hours away.
Yes, I am grieving. And that’s okay. I need to be kind to myself and give myself the space to grieve and process. I need to press into God and to allow him to teach me how to be as kind to myself as he is to me. What does kindness toward myself look like?
- Less skimming headlines and more listening to worship music and positive secular music.
- Less comparing my experience to the experience of others. Good or bad.
- More unfollowing or ‘snoozing’ individuals on social media who are determined to feed the fear and those who are publicly shaming those who they judge as being fearful. More allowing people to believe what they choose to believe and less trying to bring a logical viewpoint into their dialogue. If they aren’t asking me for my opinion, I am not offering it.
- Reading books that feed my spirit and don’t bring me down. Listening to uplifting portions of the Bible that bring comfort and encourage me. Allowing myself to feast on my favourite passages, I can meditate on the more challenging narratives another day.
- I am not beating myself up for feeling down some days. I am not hiding from my authentic emotions.
- More talking to safe friends who will listen and allow me to speak first before they offer advice.
By practising kindness toward yourself, you’ll find the grace to be kind to others.
How can you practise kindness toward yourself this week? If you are not sure, spend some time thinking about it. If you’ve been stuffing your emotions, allow them to resurface in prayer. God will catch you; nothing takes him by surprise. You can trust fall into his arms.
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Until Next Week,
©2020 Katherine Walden