I was walking my dog the other day, as I do most days at lunchtime, and all of a sudden, a female wild turkey came running through a row of hedges onto the path we were walking on. It was moving fairly quick, and it seemed as though the turkey clearly knew she was not where she was supposed to be. She kept turning her head right and left, looking for a way out, yet unable to find one.
As I watched the turkey run down the path ahead of my dog and I, I got to thinking how this pandemic has made many of us feel a lot like her: out of place and not really sure how to get back to where we want to be. There is a sense of each of us being thrown out of life as we knew it.
Of course, this isn’t the first time most of us have been thrust out of what is familiar and comfortable into what is new and unsettling. Sometimes, that happens because of our own choices; at other times it’s more arbitrary and the result of living in a broken world.
In the case of the pandemic, it’s a little bit of both, but whether we are old or young, whether we live alone or with someone, whether we like following the safety guidelines or not– our lives have been turned upside down in the last six months and those of us who are working or going to school or have young kids have especially had extra challenges added to our already full plates.
In response to all that has been happening because of the pandemic, David Brooks of the NY Times wrote an article a while ago in which he wrote, “Life and death can seem completely arbitrary. The only thing that matters is survival. Without the inspiration of a higher meaning, selfishness takes over.
“This mindset is the temptation of the hour,” he says, — “but it’s wrong. We’ll look back on this as one of the most meaningful periods of our lives.”
He then mentions Viktor Frankl, who, when writing from the madness of the Holocaust, reminded us that we don’t get to choose our difficulties. But we do have the freedom to select our responses. Meaning, Frankl argued, comes from three things: the work we offer in times of crisis, the love we give, and our ability to display courage in the face of suffering.
Brooks concluded his piece by saying that meaning will also be created by the story we tell about this moment: about the way we tie our moment of suffering to a larger narrative of redemption. About the way we then go out and stubbornly live out that story.
As people of faith, one of the ways we can create meaning in this moment– and one of the ways we can stubbornly live out God’s calling in our lives in this time– as Brooks puts it, is by tending to our heart in the frenzy of life. Taking time to breathe, be still, and remember God’s promises in our lives is what is going to sustain us through this time and help us stay centered in who we are created and called to be.
These practices are a way to find peace and wholeness in the midst of the ambiguous loss we are all experiencing. They also offer a counter-narrative to the negative and often hate-filled messages we hear from so many sources. They are also a way to stay connected to the people we love and the God who loves us most of all.
When you start to feel like the turkey who was frantically searching to find her way, thrust from what is familiar and comfortable into what is new and unsettling, what I want you to know is that God is there. God will create a way forward for you. And perhaps most importantly of all, God’s promises to care and provide for you remain intact.