Not One of Us Is Alone

Did you rise this morning, / broken and hung over / with weariness and pain
and rage tattered from waving too long in a brutal wind? / Get up, child.
Pull your bones upright / gather your skin and muscle into a patch of sun.
Draw breath deep into your lungs; / you will need it / for another day calls to you.
I know you ache. / I know you wish the work were done / and you
with everyone you have ever loved / were on a distant shore / safe, and unafraid.
But remember this, / tired as you are: / you are not alone.
Here / and here / and here also
there are others weeping / and rising / and gathering their courage.
You belong to them / and they to you / and together,
we will break through / and bend the arc of justice
all the way down / into our lives.
—“Prayer for the Morning” by Audette Fulbright Fulson

Last week, I read an article by mental health counselor Dr. Dominique Hammonds that talked about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid representation of human needs. The pyramid’s foundation is made up of our most fundamental, physiological needs—things like food, water, shelter. And the need for self-actualization is at the top—including productivity, transcendence, deep personal fulfillment. In order to reach the higher needs on the pyramid, the underlying needs must be met first.

The article was written to remind us that during this time of pandemic and upheaval, we, as a human community, have been thrust back into the physiological and safety realms of the hierarchy. And this may not be where we are used to hanging out. But like so many people in the world, we have probably noticed that we have been consumed with ensuring that we have the basics of what we need in order to sustain our physiological needs. And this, my friends, is why it has been hard for so many of us to focus; why it feels like it takes twice as long to get anything done, why you may be more irritable, overwhelmed, and exhausted; why you only have the mental energy to focus what is immediate; why you’ve been instinctively prioritizing self-care and family; why you may be grasping to control what you perceive to be controllable (because so much is uncontrollable and unpredictable right now); why planning for the future is the furthest thing from your mind; why you’re craving connection.

All of these reactions are normal. These feelings and behaviors do not indicate you are a slacker, lazy, or anything like that. Right now, we are experiencing trauma on a global scale. And it is more than okay not to be productive. It is more than okay to “just be” and feel what is happening all around us (and to us). And more than anything (as hard as it may be), we should not compare ourselves and our trauma responses to others. We should not buy into the narrative that we must emerge from this situation a “better person.” And it is okay to seek help. COVID-19 is a crisis that threatens both our physical and psychological wellness.

And I would add that this pandemic also has spiritual ramifications and raises spiritual questions. How are we caring for our neighbors and ourselves? Where are we seeking and finding spiritual grounding? In what ways does our faith call us to be gentle? In what ways does our faith call us to be bold? Where are you recognizing the risen Christ in the world around you?

As Audette Fulson claims in the poem above, I deeply believe that not one of us is alone. We each belong to one another. But not only that, I believe that our faith calls us to belong to all those who struggle for health and wellness, financial security, food security, housing, safety, a sense of love and belonging, opportunity, and meaningful connection. We are in this together. Our separation is temporary. We will emerge, and when we do, we will work together to find new and inspiring ways to bend that arc of justice all the way down into our lives.

See you in (zoom) church,

I Have Deep Faith in This

The poppies send up their / orange flares; swaying / in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation / of bright dust, of thin / and lacy leaves. / There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t / sooner or later drown / in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while, / the roughage / shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything / with its yellow hair. / Of course nothing stops the cold,
black, curved blade / from hooking forward— / of course / loss is the great lesson.
But I also say this: that light / is an invitation / to happiness, / and that happiness,
when it’s done right, / is a kind of holiness, / palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields, / touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed / in the river / of earthly delight—
and what are you going to do— / what can you do / about it— / deep, blue night?
     —“Poppies” by Mary Oliver

At times over the past 2 or 3 weeks, I have felt almost overwhelmed by grief. It is a grief of having to behave in ways that feel contradictory to my beliefs: that the world is not a safe place, that we must stay away from other people, that anything we touch can make us sick, that necessities are scarce. And yet, we know that sheltering-in-place is saving lives; it is an act of love and service. We are truly doing the right thing by cancelling in-person worship and meetings for the short term. Sometimes, however, my heart and mind struggle to reconcile with this reality. Yet, I walk outside, and I am amazed by the sunshine, the bird song, the bright flowers. And I realize, again, that the world is still a beautiful, hospitable, and gracious place. Our separation is temporary. We will find our way out of this deep, blue night—and emerge into a golden new reality that will make our togetherness even more meaningful. I have deep faith in this.

See you in (zoom) church,