A lamentation is a passionate expression of sorrow or grief, and today I have a lot of lamentations.
It has been hard to be sequestered in my home, as much as I love and appreciate my house. It has been hard to watch my son stay inside and away from his friends. It has been hard to resist going out to public places and gathering with people. It has been hard to go without in person worship, and there are no words to adequately convey that loss. But all of my troubles seem to pale in comparison right now to that of others.
I am so sad for all the children and teenagers who will not get to go back to school, and especially those graduating seniors who have had their senior year experience obliterated. I am sad for the families that will have to unexpectedly navigate the world of homeschooling, distance learning, and constant contact unlike their previous normal daily lives. I am sad for the compounding of stress, strain, and anxiety for families. I mourn the financial impact this closure will have and the trickle effect of the loss of vital childcare school provides for single parents.
I am so sad for teachers, staff, and families of other school programs that will be devastated because of this news. Preschools, before and aftercare programs, and tutoring programs will all be profoundly affected. Some may lose their jobs, contracts, and vital income. Some of these programs may never fully recover, or recover at all. The gifts and services they provide will be missed by the children, teenagers, and families that were blessed by them, and now will go without.
I am so sad for those in the service industry that are now out of work with the suspension of in dining offerings for the foreseeable future. They are suddenly cut off, and might not have access to the same social safety nets other industries have. I mourn for their circumstances, financial difficulties, and the strain this will place on them and their families.
I find myself overwhelmed with sadness this day. The Church is a place where people seek to do the right thing, seek to be a vessel of blessing. We yearn to enact our love in acts of kindness, and our compassion in acts of mercy. Yet today the void seems so huge to fill. Just when I think that I might sink into a pit of despair, lamenting until I exhaust my energy, I remember the words of Christ:
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid (John 14:26-27 NRSV).
While I ache for the gathering of two or more in Jesus’ name to feel his presence in a miraculous way, I am reminded that I have not been left orphaned by the present circumstances or the loss of in person worship. Nor have we been abandoned when we discover new challenges that are being faced right now. We can unite in other ways, some new to the Body of Christ entirely, and some merely assumed to be the way of the world and not the Church. We can focus on prayers and our giving, both of which can be done without contamination to one another and spreading COVID-19. We can support the Church and those that will come in their time of need.
I have been looking for peace, but looking in all the wrong places. I have not found it on the news. I have not found it in social media. I have not found it in my busyness or my isolation. The peace that I need, the peace that brings true rest and rejuvenation to sustain in dark and trying times can only be found in Christ. The truth is that I did not have to find it either. When I remembered Christ’s words, it came flooding back to me. It found me. The peace washed over me, like a river. It cleansed me of my doubt and fear. It rid me of my hopelessness. I still am sad for others. I still lament their pain and suffering. Yet now I can focus on my response and what I have been empowered to do. We have lost so much, and we just may lose a lot more, but we shall not lose hope. For hope is not a thing to be set down and lost, it is our God, who finds us and saves us:
I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see. -Amazing Grace
May grace teach our hearts to fear forgetting our God, our selves, and our means of grace, and our purpose as disciples, and grace our fears relieve all the terror, the anxiety, the stress, and the trials of the days to come. We can do this. We shall do this. Emphasis on the “we,” all of us, together.