Rev. Jay Deskins, Regional Youth & Children’s Minister, Christian Church in Arizona
I am sure every person in America has not only screamed these words over the last month, and I am also sure some of you have taken to high fashion hair styles. These are hard times. As someone who does not have children, I cannot begin to imagine the challenges that these times bring. I have heard from friends all over the country during this pandemic that their family has never been closer, they are sharing meals, cooking together, playing together, learning together. But those families have also had their “day.” You know, that day where everyone is just in a bad mood, and the tension in the air can be cut with a knife. Maybe you have had more than one of those “days.”
I am sure that you and your children have already had talks about the pandemic. You have probably talked about the importance of hygiene and the importance of keeping social distance. But I am also sure you have talked about the even harder aspects of this pandemic, from the illness to the climbing number of fatalities.
You have been creative trying to find ways to keep your children entertained, educated, exercised, and not bored. And I know you are tired of sticking your kid in front of a computer or tablet for them to stare at while a camera stares back at them. I know, just like our government, you have suspended some policies to make this time bearable for you all. You have suspended limits on screen time, you have bought more sugar cereal than normal, you are baking cookies and sweets (and then eating them), you are letting kids sleep in a little more or staying up a little later. And that is fine. Because these are not normal times.
How Can This Be Sacred?
series by Rev. Jay Deskins
Every day we encounter sacred moments. And yet, we ignore, don’t notice or turn away. This blog, How Can This be Sacred? is created to help us notice the sacred in our every day lives, and how to take those sacred moments to reflect on our faith, give thanks, and to ask questions. As families become more and more busy, handing down our faith to the next generation is being pushed to the back burner. We have to be intentional about passing on the stories of our faith.
My hope is that you and your family take moments every day in your busy lives to notice the sacred.
So throughout this time, however long it is, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself when your creativity runs out. Forgive yourself for not being as cool as that cool social media family that always posts how great this time is for them (because, spoiler alert, they are still having a hard time). Forgive yourself when you think you have lost all sense of reality. Forgive yourself when you get angry when after the millionth time your child has asked for something they can’t have or do because of the pandemic. Forgive yourself when you sneak away to your bedroom just to get ten minutes of quiet. Forgive yourself whenever you stretch the truth to say “I have to use the restroom.” Forgive yourself when you want to, or you actually go “Office Space” on the computer when it doesn’t compute. Forgive yourself when you serve mac and cheese for the third time this week. Forgive yourself when you come home from the groceries and your children really wanted that special ice cream, and they were all out, and dangit you didn’t want to go into a third store looking for it. Forgive yourself when you take time to video chat with your friends. Forgive yourself for being short, stressed, and angry. Forgive yourself when you let the television or other screens babysit for an hour. Forgive yourself when you had to have a talk with your child about death several years before you planned.
Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of others. This is not only a biblical concept, forgiveness for yourself and for others, but it is taught to us everytime we get on a plane: put your mask on first, before you put it on your child. If you are struggling for a breath, you can’t help as well as you could if you were able to breathe somewhat normally.
Youth ministry expert Kenda Creasy Dean says in her book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, “Adults need spiritual apprenticeships as much as their children do—and adults need them first. Group spiritual direction, covenant groups, practice in oral prayer, lay leadership in worship, singing hymns and praise songs—and of course, the formal practice of testimony itself—are congregational practices that give adults, and not just teenagers, opportunities to put faith into words.” You also need things for yourself if you are going to be everything you want to be for your family.
Also, through this time, we need to forgive the reality of all of this. Richard Rohr says this, “Our first forgiveness, it seems to me, is toward [this] reality itself: to forgive it for being so broken, a mixture of good and bad. First that paradox has to be overcome inside of us. Then, when we allow God to hold together the opposites within us, it becomes possible to do it over there in our neighbor and even our enemy” when this is all said and done. As silly as it sounds, we need to forgive the social distancing practices. Because as mad and as frustrated as we are at this whole thing, if we hold onto our anger at this situation, we will dwell in that.
I invite you, whenever you feel yourself reaching your edge, to take a step away and join in this part of a prayer from St. Francis of Assissi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
This prayer in these times, is for yourself. Pray for yourself, pray for your families, pray for the world. And when this is all over, and we return to being a physical community, however that looks, forgive yourself.