I just returned to Virginia from Chicago, where my family gathered to celebrate my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary and collectively struggled with whether we have finally reached the time for my father to stay on the memory care floor. It has been a long, slow decline. He can absolutely still converse and is very social, but the confusion of daily life is increasing. It is inevitable, but it is a challenging call to make, especially with the thoughts and feelings of spouse, children and in-laws in the mix.
I made this trip in a particularly difficult week for the world. After a wonderful and challenging year, I tried to take 3 weeks off to recharge and recoup my energy and resiliency for our next year together. After many years of ministry, however, I have come to understand that what sometimes starts as an unplugged vacation doesn’t always turn out that way.
I have been checking email and not responding if at all possible, and of course there is Facebook. I find myself unable to separate myself from Facebook, and yet I struggle because I want to detach as much as possible to recharge for what I already know will be a challenging upcoming year. With the world as it is, we have unfortunately gotten to a place where it seems that it doesn’t stop. There is always a need for support, protest, pastoral response and continuing the work of being a good accomplice/ally.
As I sat at the lakefront talking with a friend, the warm breeze coming off the lake, people jogging, the row of large Evanston homes with pristine lawns looking like a scene from the 1950s, it was hard to imagine the pain coming through my Facebook feed, one update after another, one news story after another. It felt surreal surrounded by the familiar trappings, and yet I was conscious of what feels like a world gone mad, ricocheting back and forth through the digital realm.
And here I was on vacation. Much like my presence in the physical Evanston world, I was trying to make the familiar rules apply, trying not to work, trying not to do the thing that I am most called to do during what seems like a pretty needy time. I thought, what about the balance, what about the self-care and what about the pain of the world, my congregation, my siblings of color and yes, what about my family?
Next Tuesday I return to work after what feels like a very short break. There is much to plan and much to do. After General Assembly and the events of this summer, I am feeling called ever deeper to whatever forces placed me in this congregation, living less than a mile away from the headquarters of the NRA. There will be much to do in this second year of ministry at UUCF, but my spirit is deeply moved to be more visible and vocal about the disease of gun violence.
We all have choices to make. We all need to feed our souls. We all need Sabbaths to reflect and gain perspective. Not all of us have the privilege to take the time to do this. We all have various responsibilities tugging at our time and energy, and as I watched the suffering of the nation, juxtaposed against the struggles of my family, I know that balance can be a rare privilege.
I guess the reason to write this is to express, both to myself and others, that some things can be all consuming and there are times when we need to be consumed, but we also need to step out of the “feed” every once in a while for reflection and perspective, if only to feed our spirits for the desperate work that continues. I am grateful for those who were able to stay plugged-in during this latest, but unfortunately not last, crisis. Like others, I must take my time where I can and then I will jump back in.
There is something that I am so deeply hoping for, through all the totally understandable anger, hurt and pain (and I own that I can say this from my white, cisgendered, position of privilege and responsibility, a place safe from the oppression visited on too many generations of my siblings in communities suffering from the systemic oppressions of our time): I am still hoping that love is indeed the answer, not foolish love, not passive love, not irresponsible love, not blind love, and definitely not one-sided love, but love that acknowledges the pain that we cause others, that calls us to human connection, that understands the anger, that leaves space for pain without demands for premature healing, a love that open hearts and eventually finds the face of the divine and the beauty of creation in the other. It seems we are all still working on the tactics. So much more work to be done.
Thanks for listening and much love,