Have you ever driven a long trip on the Interstate and then when you take an exit you find it hard to slow down to the new speed limit? Or have you taken a vacation and noticed it takes a few days to turn off all your thoughts about back home and ease into vacation mode? I noticed the same phenomenon during this pandemic. It took me time to get into sync with new patterns of my daily activity.
That isn’t true for some of us. Some of us have had to ramp up our activity level. So, before I go further, a word to doctors, nurses, aides, hospital and nursing home staff, police, fire, first responders, etc., you are our heroes. Thank you for your service. We join you in prayer for your safety and that God might use you as God’s healing agents during this difficult time. There are plenty of other essential personnel, the people who work to fill the shelves at our grocery stores or provide take-out food for us to eat. Thank you for your service. We’re praying for you as well. I could go on, there are many essential personnel to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. Thank you all!
For the rest of us, we may be getting antsy. We’re bored, we miss getting out, we miss our family and friends, we miss worship and our community of faith. We’re tempted to throw caution to the wind and go back to “normal.” I need to restate a word of caution here. There is no normal to go back to. There will be no switch to flip where the virus is gone, and we can resume our familiar activities. We are probably moving into months of stepped transition. The question for us is rather, how do we go forward?
Too often, we get caught in the tyranny of the urgent. We rush to do what needs to be done right now, without asking ourselves, “What is important?” Do we prepare to return to a manic existence where success is measured in accomplishments and things rather than a faithfulness to God, one another, and a rule of love?
I’ve heard people say, “I wish we could go back to a simpler time.” There is no clock we can turn back. In some ways, for many of us, we’re there. What can we do during this simpler time to prepare us for the challenges ahead?
American sociologist Bertice Berry tells the story about the advice she received from a woman when she was a girl. You can watch her tell the full story on our Facebook page, it’s just three minutes and well worth your time. If you can’t, here’s a summary.
Berry worked as a cleaner after school and on weekends. She would often ask the women waiting for a bus to go to their cleaning jobs about how to best do her job. One day an older woman told her, always clean the lights, especially the lightbulbs. She was told, “If you take care of the light, everything shines.”
The first time she cleaned the chandelier in the entrance hall of a home, the home-owner, came out and asked, “What did you do? It looks amazing in here!” They asked her to come back and gave her a raise.
“Always take care of the light,” she tells us. “There’s a light inside of each of us,” Berry says, “that must be nurtured, that must be cared for, that needs to shine brightly. It hasn’t been addressed. It hasn’t been talked to. It hasn’t been loved. Give it the music it wants. Give it the dance it needs. Give it the sunshine it so admires. Give it the stars at night. Your light, that thing about you that shines so brightly, others want to see, needs to be nurtured, loved, and cared for . . . We’ve been given this time to take care of the light.”
I would say that light, that which makes you unique, is a spark of the divine Creator, the presence of God within you. Now, as ever, we need to nurture, love and care for our understanding of God and ourselves. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, rushed, or bored, remember God’s love for you. God has created you to be a unique expression of the Divine in the world.
We will be cooped up a bit longer and it will be okay. Use the time you have “to clean the light.”