This Holy Week will be one we remember forever. I continue to be amazed at the creative ways churches are worshiping and celebrating this holy season of Lent. This past Sunday I saw houses with palm branch arrangements hung on the door. One pastor asked church members to make a brief video of themselves acting out a portion of Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem and compiled all the videos into one, using it to share the Gospel Lesson on Palm Sunday. Another took palms and left them on the doorsteps of parishioners.
The Easter season will no doubt bring more creativity, there is a deep weariness, too. I see clergy and many church staff and volunteers working hard to stay connected and tend to church members. I am grateful. And also concerned about the level of exhaustion.
If you’re like me, you find yourself tired these days. My sleep is restless. Over the last couple of weeks, the number of times I awaken in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep has increased substantially. On the nights I somehow miraculously sleep, I wake up still feeling tired.
I’ve been wondering why.
Then I participated in the prayer time led by Bishop Schnase on Monday of Holy Week. Many of you participated in that zoom call. At one point, Rev. Laura Merrill shared a reflection about this season of COVID-19 in which we are living. She named the weariness so many are feeling throughout the world and I felt validated. If what I’m feeling is normal, chances are you are also tired. Then, she went on to say, “You know and I know that much of what we are feeling right now is grief.”
Indeed we are all carrying various loads of grief right now. Sometimes the grief might seem small such as not being able to visit with friends or the cancellation of a family vacation. It’s grief all the same and the accumulation of it takes a toll. Sometimes the grief seems heavier – not being able to visit a loved one in the hospital or absorbing the great number of deaths due to COVID-19 and understanding that a great many more are to come. This grief is heavy.
We know that naming our grief and sitting with it is no fun, but it is important spiritual work.
While I might talk and write about our collective grief, it wasn’t until this week that my own grief hit me hard. Tired in spite of time spent in bed. A hollowed feeling inside in spite of plenty to eat. “Oh yes”, I finally realized – “this is what grief feels like for me.” And then, just as I was recognizing my own grief, my daughter’s began to surface as well. As a carefree and life-loving kid, she’s doing remarkably well with all the change. Not going to school and soccer practice and church, she seems to be making a conscious effort to soak up the positives of more time with mom and dad and the comforts of home. But just the other day at the dinner table she was choking back tears and told me she was having a hard time going to sleep. I scooted my chair back and pulled her more than five foot body onto my lap. I spoke the words, “This is hard. And you get to be sad.” My words were permission and the tears came. We talked about missing friends and the disappointment of her 4th grade musical being canceled. We took a walk and talked more, acknowledging that perhaps the hardest part is not knowing when all this will end. How long will we shelter in place and practice social distancing? As some of us have mentioned before – this may be a marathon and not a sprint, but the thing about a marathon is that you at least have mile markers to let you know how much further you have to go. The not knowing understandably leads to worry and fear. I’m reminded of the words of CS Lewis: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
I don’t share all of this for you to worry. I am okay!, perhaps in large part because I’m acknowledging my grief. I believe the invitation for us this Holy Week and Easter season is to be honest before God about all we’re carrying and all we’re holding that is hard. To be honest with our grief and fear. To bring it to the foot of the cross. To give it to the One who gave His life for us all. To the One who says, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”
This is the season to anticipate the gift of resurrection that God alone can bring. That’s the thing about Easter – it’s all God’s doing and not ours. Easter comes even if there are no fresh white lilies in the sanctuary. It comes if there is no trumpet fanfare and no new Easter dress. By the power and grace of God, Easter still comes.
If you can’t sleep, get up. Make tea. Pray. If you can’t pray, pray anyway. Kneel. Watch. If you can’t watch, watch anyway. There are hares looking for food & there are sleeping robins. There is this posture, this story, this practice that — even if nothing else holds you — holds you.
– Padraig O Tuama
You can find Rev. Laura Merrill’s Prayer Reflection here.