Little Deaths

Week 3 of no physical worship in the sanctuary with my congregation. It looks like a minimum of at least 5 more weeks. North Carolina’s statewide lockdown starts on Monday evening.

As this pandemic continues and life is turned upside down, we need to give room in our lives for the little deaths that are happening all the time.

Today, we had planned to do a healing service because it is a 5th Sunday. I was looking forward to anointed heads with oil and giving permission for people to let God in to heal. It isn’t going to happen.

Today, we had planned to have a baptism by immersion at the lake and then have a party with all the confirmands and youth. This was going to be my first immersion baptism but it isn’t going to happen today. Nor is the other infant baptism we had planned for last week, well not yet at least.

In March, we were going to start sharing the work of the Building Team on renovations to the church and plans to build a new parsonage with the greater congregation. We are still going to do this over Zoom, but it isn’t the same as face to face.

We are staring at the reality that Holy Week won’t physically happen. No children waving Palms, no holy communion on Thursday, no loud noise scaring everyone on Good Friday as the tomb is shut, no darkness as the last candle is extinguished. No Sunrise Service with other congregations and no glorious transformation of the sanctuary on Easter morning. My son, one of our confirmands, will not join the church on Easter along with five others. No taste of communion and none of the feels saying, “Christ is Risen” and then hearing a full sanctuary say back, “he has risen indeed.”

My daughter may not have physical graduation from the 5th grade. Her birthday is in April, and our original plans will have to change. School at home is now a reality and a daily reminder that it is not our calling.

These are just a small taste of what I personally have lost. I know there are others in the world who have lost loved ones during this pandemic because of the virus or because of other reasons. They don’t know when they will be able to gather and remember. Weddings will have to be rescheduled. Vacations canceled. Reality has changed.

Psalm 42:11 says, Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” This is one of the Psalms of Lament. Lamenting is such a powerful emotional journey, which many of us in modern-day American Christians do not give enough space, time, or permission to experience.

In this Psalm, the author cries out longing for God. As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

In this midst of life with all of these little deaths we are experiencing, my prayer is we will give room to lament, to mourn, to grieve. If not these emotions will bubble up in other ways. We will take it out on our loved ones or in comment sections on the internet. The grief we have for all the changes we are facing will come out. It is natural. It is human. It is okay.

May we admit our longing and what our soul truly thirsts for. May we admit and confess the little deaths we are experiencing every day while in isolation. May we give ourselves permission to grieve and to lament.

God can handle our emotions and knows them already.

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