Beloved St. John’s community,
It’s almost impossible to believe, but we have been in this pandemic for nearly one full year now. All initial imagination of what this would be, how long it would last, and what the impact would be have long since been shattered. It’s as if we are running an ultramarathon, in the advanced miles, with the important difference that we do not know how long the race is.
Given this reality, it’s especially important to practice grace and kindness for ourselves and those around us.
Who has most disappointed you this year? How have you yourself failed to live up to your own expectations? What are you most longing for that, despite your needs, you will not be able to have? Whose behavior do you find the most difficult to tolerate? Who can you not forgive? What if you could give yourself space to face these things with kindness, not trying to fix them right away, but simply facing the truth of your experience?
Lent is a time for radical honesty. I don’t mean honesty in the sense of venting our angry thoughts about those we cannot forgive. It’s about the profound opening that comes from allowing ourselves to be utterly honest about our own limitations, feelings, faults and capacities. It’s about recognizing that God meets us as we are, where we are. Once we receive the love of God in our own vulnerable places, we can also experience the shock of recognition, suddenly seeing those we despise as our kin—which transforms our relationships and opens the way for healing.
Given the invitation of Lent to this kind of honesty, I invite you to consider kindness of God. Imagine that God sees you fully. God sees your gifts and your unique joy, your unique way of being in this world. God sees the efforts you make, especially the ones that no one else notices. God sees the hurts you have endured. And, God sees the mistakes you have made, and why you have made them, and the impact they have had. And God does not abandon you.
In times that require endurance like this one, many of us have run out of the usual reserves we keep to manage difficult circumstances. Perhaps our tempers are quicker and our fuses shorter. Perhaps we cry more easily. Perhaps we have less tolerance for that which does not nourish us. Perhaps we spend more time watching Marvel movies or playing Minecraft. Perhaps we do not always give our loved ones our best. Perhaps we are exhausted hearing about systemic racism or any of the other ills in our country because we can’t even keep our tempers with our teenagers or keep the house clean, let alone fix problems that existed centuries before we were born.
Beloved, God is with us. Like the prodigal who “came to” himself feeding the pigs, famished, and recognizing that even slavery in his father’s house would be better than the utter isolation and hunger in which he found himself, we can wake up to the depth of our need to be nourished, and the need others have for the same. We can allow that which does not work anymore to fall away, and make space for what truly nourishes. Like the prodigal, we can begin the long journey home, as we are, in all our vulnerability and imperfection, and fall into the joyful embrace of God.
We do have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. This pandemic isn’t over yet. But even God had to rest. I encourage you, wherever you are and whatever your state, to make space for radical honesty and kindness toward yourself. I encourage you to allow God into the spaces that need healing, or attention, or forgiveness. Once you receive that grace, can you make space to see another with compassion—perhaps even someone you most struggle to forgive?
Faithfully, in Christ’s love,