I feel like I’ve read endless analyses and articles on this moment we’re in. An essay on the exponential growth rate of infection and the efficacy of stay-at-home orders. Ten tips for working at home. Handwashing methods. How to postpone your wedding due to COVID-19. Projections on potential timelines of this pandemic to try to inform when to postpone that wedding to exactly. Lots and lots of takes about “the silver lining” of the pandemic. Righteous anger at the current administration’s utter failure at leadership. Six lessons coronavirus can teach us about ______. Six lessons _____ can teach us about coronavirus. Media posts about how to limit your media intake during a crisis. The sobering personal letters from doctors and nurses on the frontlines. Important rebukes to those using this moment to spread hatred or profiteer off of fear. Local stories showing faces of the first lives lost in our area.
In certain moments, I am processing the news and information, feeling thankful for good journalists, preachers, scientists, and medical professionals. It’s vital that we engage, process and discern how to embody love in every way possible in this. It is difficult AND we should do it. We should mourn with those who mourn. We should contribute to our community by staying home and staying informed. We should fight politically, contribute financially, and faithfully pray for the protection of our neighbors.
But there comes a time when I have no more processing power, no more emotional energy, and I think – I actually hope – that is true for all of us, being human and all. I think it is there, at the end of our human capacity, that we learn how to grieve and accept that we need space to grieve. We find out how very much we need a God who is Love to tend to inexplicable fears and sorrows AND how very much we need a God who is Love to whom we shout inexplicable joys and gratitude. One of my favorite thinkers, Rachel Held Evans taught me to turn to the Psalms in those times, when I’m at the edge of my capacity and in the middle of utterly contradicting emotions:
“The Psalms are, in a sense, God’s way of holding space for us. They invite us to rejoice, wrestle, cry, complain, offer thanks, and shout obscenities before our Maker without self-consciousness and without fear. Life is full of the sort of joys and sorrows that don’t resolve neatly in a major key. God knows that. The Bible knows that. Why don’t we?”
Right now, I am asking myself more frequently than ever: Will you stop trying to resolve this moment? Will you give yourself permission to live in that unresolved space between sorrow and joy? While you’re there, will you dare to believe that you are not alone?
While I read some of the Psalms today, I related to the writers as they voice frustration at God, sometimes turning to praise for him and, often, right back to grief in the following few verses.
But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness. (Psalm 88:13–18 ESV)
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 89:1 ESV)
How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man! (Psalm 89:46–47 ESV)
Blessed be the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen. (Psalm 89:52 ESV)
These are just a few pieces of ones I can’t help but read over and over these days, but open to just about any one of these poem-songs, and you’re bound to find an emotion or twelve you relate to.
Right now, I’m confused and just plain sad. I’m grieving some lost things, like the wedding we had long planned and awaited, the “normal” days, our community, and our plans. I’m afraid of unknown losses to come. I’m angry that a deeply unjust and amoral administration is the one that we have during this crisis. I’m frustrated that I’m unable to serve and contribute in ways I normally might in a crisis.
I’m also grateful. For my family and a big, warm house to retreat to with them. For our ability to cuddle our dogs, bake brownies and scoop ice cream. For the knowledge that we have social and financial safety nets that are not to be taken for granted. For the friends’ faces showing up in our video calls. For a community that came with my fiancé and I as we shifted our wedding plans and stays with us while we adjust to a new reality together. For the absolute joy it still is to look forward to marrying my best friend a little further down the road than expected.
The Love that is still here, in the midst and in the mud of this crisis, is shocking and improbable. But it’s not new. Love has always shown up in spite of shouts of pain, anger, confusion and grief, and it transforms those shouts into praise. I’m thankful for the proof of Love that is in the Psalms. I’m hopeful that my life can serve as proof of it, too.
Only when we allow Love to hear both our pain and our praise do we commune deeply with the One who bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Only when we recognize our own ability to persist amid chaos do we find a new level of relationship with the One who is capable of so much more.
While singing our ever-changing psalms, we contact Love deeper than we can comprehend and access abilities far beyond our own. Then and only then, our pain, joy, despair, gratitude, love, and grief become the tools of our resilience. We dare to believe that we are not alone in the unresolved space, and that might just be enough for now.
Article by guest contributor Katie Balfany.