This weekend, we planted aloe, a plant that I had in my home growing up. I can remember one summer in elementary school helping my mom grill a sandwich in the super snacker panini press. As I was watching for the light to come on indicating my sandwich was ready, my thumb touched the small black strip that was hot. I immediately cried out in pain. After putting cold water on it, my mom took a small piece of our aloe plant squeezing the aloe on the burn. The relief was immediate.
I’ve thought about that a lot over these past three weeks. There are many times in my ministry I have wished there was a plant or a solution I could administer to those who were hurting. One of the hardest aspects of ministry for me has always been not being able to alleviate people’s suffering. To be sure I am always in awe to share those precious seasons and thoughts with them and to sit with them in their suffering, but the question always surfaces: “Is that enough? Could I do more?”
And maybe you are there too as you read and hear the stories of those who are suffering the physical impacts of COVID-19. Maybe you are there too as you read the stories of the medical professionals pulling double and triple shifts without the PPE they need. Maybe you are where I have been so often saying isn’t there a balm or solution that could alleviate this collective suffering we are all experiencing? Can’t we make this go away? Can’t this be healed?
In the midst of the uncertainty of who long this suffering will last and how close this suffering will come to each of us, I am comforted with the revelation that we are not alone. Although it may seem like we can’t do that much, we can sit here together in our grief, in our suffering, in our uncertainty, and in our vulnerability. This is enough. This is healing because we know that while we may be socially distant or even isolated from each other, we are not walking this journey alone.
That revelation is water nurturing and growing healing. Healing that comes in the tiniest plant, in text messages, in Facetimes, in notes, and in stories of good. Thanks be to God for the light that shines in the darkness.
Last week about this time, I began to understand that our lives were going to be drastically different. Although I had followed the news and the developments in China, it all still felt so far away. Last week about this time, things began to be canceled in large numbers. It wasn’t just the schools that were closing, but everything was beginning to shut down.
Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would go to the park. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of parks all across the city being closed. Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would go to storytime at the library or browse the shelves or play with the Duplo table. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of library branches across the city being closed. Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would gather around the table at a restaurant with our family and friends or gathered outside in the fresh air and sunshine at one of the local breweries. I hadn’t considered the possibility of restaurant dining rooms being closed in order to limit the number of people who were gathered in one place.
Last week about this time, I began to lament again and again, “But I didn’t know it was going to be the last time. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
My heart and mind needed closure and there simply wasn’t any. It all happened so quickly. There’s something about this lament that is in the heartbeat of the Lenten season. If there is ever a season in the church calendar, this is it. We lament that we leave things left undone that could help bring about the kingdom of God here on earth. We lament the ways we contribute to the oppression and injustice that exists in our world. We lament that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
And the lamenting brings us to our knees, prostrate before our Creator asking for help and guidance.
Last week about this time. I didn’t know.
This week, I find myself a bit more comfortable on my knees lamenting and asking God for help for those in our medical profession who are on the frontlines; for those awaiting test results; for those separated and isolated from family; for all of us not knowing if we are carrying a virus that is very powerful.
Lord in your mercies, hear our laments.