I came up with a little joke that I thought my husband (and maybe only my husband) would appreciate. I was feeling proud of myself about it.
It was in the early stages of Covid-19 changing our lives; when things were weird and unknown but not as weird and unknown as they are now. Our church had just had our first ‘closed’ service live-streamed. The joke goes like this:
So the angels ran up to God saying, “Oh my God! Easter is going to be canceled in the western world!!!” And God said, “Finally! Thank the Lordt!”
I really don’t hate Easter! I do think what we do on faith-based holidays is often ironic. Celebrations, traditions, extra fancy stuff– none of it is bad. But, along with the liturgy and VBS and extra services and extra devotionals, there is all this energy and hype around candy, plastic things, pastels everywhere, selling and buying and expecting stuff instead of spirit– and that’s the part that really grieves the people who would get my joke.
It’s all too easy on holidays to get caught up in the presentation and the doing and the winning of the egg hunt. Ok, I’ll speak for myself. It’s all too easy for me (cause if there’s an adult egg hunt I’m going to win it). Seriously though, I become a “do-er” instead of a “be-er.” (To clarify I don’t become a beer. However, as a side note, holy week is often so busy that some clergy I know have a habit of gathering to go out for a beer to mark the end of it. I think that’s great, by the way. My point is, the week is a lot for those behind the scenes facilitating all the things).
I’m digressing. Holy week is usually a lot and this year it’s not.
I found it telling (and this is a personal confession) that after the first ‘closed’ service in which I got to be in charge of the live-streaming in the sanctuary with just a few other people, I actually had the fleeting thought: “I really like church with no people.”
That doesn’t mean I don’t love all the people I get to see on typical Sundays. I love greeting at the door. But, it’s being revealed to me just how much I’m used to focusing on everyone else’s experience instead of my own. I’m comfortable with it like that.
We now have held multiple services without the congregation present, and holy week is canceled– I mean– the typical events of holy week are canceled. I am breathing in some deep breaths. I am considering my motives. I am examining my heart. I’m not doing anything fancy though, so it feels like I’m doing it wrong. But these events were always meant to be an expression of what was already being cultivated inside ourselves. There is nothing that can steal that option.
Today I went out into the church garden, which is also my own garden. I pulled a little tykes wagon with my son and all our stuff in it. My coffee sloshed around in the mug in my other hand as we went down the elevator and out the glass doors, navigating tall grass and ant hills. I sat on this little iron bench a friend recently passed along to me that I moved to the uneven ground by the unruly lavender bush. I sat and counted the things around me that I was grateful for. I felt overwhelemingly joyful about the littles things. I remembered how much I loved the giant magnolia tree. I said thanks for the early morning sun. Ya’ll, I think I even FELT the happiness of the bees collecting pollen from the lavender.
I took a few minutes to examine my own heart. I continued considering my motives for “what I am doing with my life.” I have to say that space from some of my typical “doings” has me noticing some desires bubble back up inside me. It don’t feel fancy but they might just be holy.
I almost didn’t allow myself this slowing down. I almost filled my days with doings– and they were good doings too. The decision to drop the days we are open to feed children from 5 days down to 2 days was hard. I was finding myself envious of people who were bored or had time to do extra projects at home. I was hearing complaints come out of my mouth and didn’t like myself for it. But I also wanted to DO IT ALL.
That compulsion to ‘do’ is not a crisis thing. This is my pattern. And it would make sense to say that a crisis is the time to push through, that you can learn your lessons later. But ya’ll, I was tired. I am tired. Not just “first year with a baby tired” either. I was running on fumes, deeply tired of “everything” and feeling lost (a story for another time).
But there was a small wise voice that I didn’t want to betray anymore. I listened. It worked out. We are giving more food per family even though we work fewer days. We have less exposure and expose families less. We have a sustainable plan.
I think I just might have experienced what it’s like for holiness to exist in less, even when there is a demand for more. Jesus gave us the example of rest, of not solving all the problems, of retreating and even ignoring things. And that was before the internet and texting. That was in the days when you sat around for hours while someone made food… every meal.
I suppose there will always be a demand for more. That’s why there is no formula or rule for how much is enough. It’s a case by case, person by person, season by season, challenge your human patterns- relationship with the holy spirit- get quiet in order to know- discernment between you and God.
This week I was able to start unlearning and relearning, a little, of what it takes to not muscle through, to examine your heart and motives, to look for holy in the mundane week. And today is Good Friday, the day of death in the Christian calendar that is hard and painful and mournful but redeemed for a GOOD and holy bigger reason.
Today, I am watching and waiting for what is GOOD during a season of death to traditions as we know them, creature comforts, reasons to feel certainty or security, living at warped speed, addictions to control, and doing all the things.