We are almost to the one-year anniversary of the time when everything changed. And there’s not a date we can look to, specifically, but there is a feeling we can name when we increasingly understood that something big was happening at this time last year.
Maybe it was when you or your dear ones had to quickly figure out how to go work or school online. Maybe it was the day your travel plans got cancelled. Maybe it was the day you tried to shop for sanitizer or toilet paper and found the shelves bare. For me, it was a period of a few days in which my preschool music teaching radically changed – one day I had a full schedule of daily teaching in six settings each week, the next we were talking about how to make it work with safety precautions, and the next day, it was done.
This vocational challenge was the beginning of a lot of soul searching for me about who I am and what I’m doing here. Because, as we were becoming aware of the seriousness of COVID, our local chapel was already closed due to a fire, and so at the same time my teaching was done, I found the door closing on my longtime music ministry and church community. It felt scary and I felt adrift. Maybe you can relate to that.
Who are you without your labels? It’s one of the biggest things I hope we’ll gain from this time of quarantine, change, and struggle. Because we’ve learned how flimsy labels are, haven’t we? Who are you without an office or a school affiliation or a schedule or a job title, or when your relationships have shifted or strained? When all of life’s puzzle pieces are up in the air, what becomes important and clear is the thing you can and should bring forward as the pieces settle in again.
There’s no going back to normal, or at least there shouldn’t be. What a waste that would be truly, if we didn’t consider and reflect and learn from this crucible of time that we’ve all experienced. And don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait for the simple things I once took for granted. I want so badly to go to a musical and sit in an audience. I want to teach music with real live children. I WANT TO HUG MY FRIENDS. (Sorry, am I yelling?)
But I hope I do those “normal” things with a new lens now, a new gratitude, a new focus on my priorities and with intention. I don’t want to sleep through any part of my life anymore. How about you? What has this year meant to you? What have you experienced, learned, lost, and gained?
For me, this was the year I started therapy. And learned to teach preschool music online. And stopped running and then returned to it with joy. This was the year my daughter came home for a semester and the year we learned how to socialize outdoors. This was the year of unexpected new people and communities. The year of A LOT of walks. This was a year of worry over work and direction, and a new resilience we didn’t know we had. This was the year I started to look around and see the broken systems I’ve been a part of, the year of seeing my country and local, national, and global church with a new clarity.
This was the year I finally listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in response to my agonized prayer over our broken church and heard Him say: you feed them and I gathered up my paltry loaves and fish. This was the year I invited people for lectio divina and started a podcast for people like me who are seeking and feeling the movement of God. This was a year of newfound purpose, new challenges, new direction. Of light emerging from darkness, and life from death – and all of it so painfully slow it would be easy to miss, but still. A time of clarity and gratitude.
So many times, this year has felt like endings, the end of a story or a schedule or a way of being, but I’m convinced that God is making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland if we’d just pay attention to where and how. It’s a chapter, and maybe one of the hardest chapters we’ve ever had, but it has the power of being our pivot, the chapter that changes everything, the one we’ll look back on with overwhelming gratitude because of the many gifts it gave us.
Please, friend, don’t go back to normal, as if there is any such thing. Take the time to listen to the lessons and light this hard time has taught us and then move forward with light, purpose, and direction. And I’ll try hard to do the same, amen.