I think that it is safe to say that things have been strange lately. I don't need to tell you why...you already know. However, I have to say that I am feeling the strangeness more now than I did at the beginning. I have been a little distracted since then.
You see, late in February, right before my son's birthday and right before our planned trip to PAX East I managed to injure my back. Long story short, after weeks of trying to stretch it out, and then taking prednisone, it didn't get better. In fact, if anything it got worse. One MRI later it turned out that I had a herniated disk along with underlying congenital lower lumbar scoliosis and stenosis. After a few shots and some PT I am now hopefully on the mend. Things are still a bit of a mess...but they are SO much better.
I spent most of March, April, and May in a metric ton of pain. I slept on the floor in the living room. I stumbled around inside the house unable to manage a walk outdoors. I was able to do my job--ironically--because the pandemic had forced us into “virtual church” so I could preach from the living room as well as sleep there. Otherwise, I probably would have had to take a leave of absence for at least a couple of weeks.
In most ways it was pretty depressing, particularly with all the chaos going on around us. However, it did keep me focused. I am grateful for that. I had only so much time to concentrate, so I spent it on the things that mattered most, like preparing the church for it's new "virtual" status and figuring out my own response to the new rules of pandemic engagement.
By the time the murder of George Floyd came to light, along with the national reaction of anger and mourning, I was better able to move--a little--and to take some small part in that response. As tragic as that situation is, there is something in the protests and policy initiatives that has the potential (if we continue to soldier on) to usher in real and lasting change. I am glad to be able to witness what I hope--most of us hope--will be a massive culture shift.
There is a lot I could say about our situation right now as a country. There are plenty of memes and such out in the ether that complain about the horribleness of this year. There are, though, glimmers of hope in areas that haven’t seen much of that in a long time. This year could be the year that we re-think racism and law-enforcement. We might just even re-think our responsibility to each other. There is a chance--a chance--that historians will look back at the many trying moments of 2020 and say that this year we are in--instead of being cursed--is when everything turned around.
But back to the strangeness for a moment; as the pain slowly becomes manageable, I find that I have more time to think and to read. However, much of that time is taken up with...anxiety. A couple weeks ago, when I was still sleeping on the floor, there were tasks to do. There were too many tasks, in fact, for me to sometimes manage them all. I had to concentrate on the problem before me. I had no time to reflect.
Now...now I have time and that isn’t always a good thing. I have been humbled, physically, emotionally, culturally. The next couple months are wide open for many. I look into the future and it isn’t all that clear where to go or what to do.
I am anxious about how to socially distance this summer and beyond. We talk about it as a family pretty much every night. We also talk about race. I worry about how not to get sick or get others sick. I am worried about how to be a good ally in the days, weeks and years to come.
I also want to be a good pastor. That means figuring out the waves and tides that will push us one way or another. It is always pushing us away from a world that may never be the same again--I can live with that--and toward something...as of yet unknown.
Anyway, I don’t miss the darkest days of this back problem. However, as I move back into the world I must say that I am impressed by all of you. You, dear reader, have been doing the hard work facing right into the storm. I am amazed. You have my support and my love. After all, we are all anxious with cause.
Lately I have been strong enough to take short walks around the neighborhood. There is a slow-moving log that until recently hung over the dam near my parsonage on the Charles. We all watch it with great intensity. My neighbors wave at me or stop to talk. To them I have become the masked version of a 19th century parson stumping along on my cane, drawing humorous comparisons to Horatio Alger Sr., who passes for famous in these parts. He was pastor during the Civil War, so at least contextually it is fitting in this hot summer to come. Then I get back to work at my standing desk.
People, we will keep fighting on, won’t we? Even though we are afraid. We come through these times of pain together doing our best to manifest the love that we and the world need. Then, in the end, we are that much closer to the Commonwealth of Heaven.
I have work to do. I am glad you are working, too.