I hit a wall with this pandemic. I observed the end of Lent, the services of Holy Week and Easter Day on-line with my church community, but I was stuck in my own internal musings. I could give a tacit affirmation to the holy events we were acknowledging, grateful for familiar words and rubrics, music, but could not get in touch with my own heart–there was numbness, blankness, opaqueness. Rather than try to parse it, exegete it, power through it, I decided to let it be and to see what and how it would unfold if I continued my daily practices–those that could feed my own longings and those that could reach out to others, whose apparent immediate needs were so much greater than my own.
For the first two weeks of Eastertide, my soul felt static or gray, yet I felt compelled to start and keep a gratitude list in a brand new journal, open-ended, without lines, with a whimsical cover by Brian Andreas that says, “Grateful today for the Sun & the earth & the memories of what it is to love everything life has brought me.” Some days my lists are mundane, sometimes repetitive. Some days they are short lists, other days quite ample. The practice, which I have done often in the past, was not a magic door-opener to my heart, with all my feelings becoming hopeful and joyful. In listening a friend, I heard her say that she allowed that for her right now, Thursday is just a bad day, no matter what; I resonated with that kind of sentiment.
Yet I noticed toward the end of this last week, that my sights were being lifted, that there were some breaks in the clouds, that the words I was reading were beginning to penetrate, have some meaning. Not every word, but some. I am finding that I have days when I rise with hope and ambition, prayerful and energetic, and then others when I am stuck in amber the whole day. What I do know to do is to observe the practices that daily open a way for Grace to get in–and some days I recognize it when it comes.
This is a time for discovery for me. I have not set out on a quest to learn more about myself and my spirit, but I am noticing things about myself that I would not have recognized. I am tranquil and unflappable much of the time, but in these days when I hear singing of all kinds, I feel my eyes fill with tears of longing, of memory, or wistfulness, of need. I discovered a group of gospel singers a while ago called the Might Clouds of Joy. In researching I found that most of them are gone now, but their legacy remains in recording and video, and they sing and praise and lament in a way that gives expression to my own heart: “”I’ve Been in the Storm Too Long,” “Heavy Load” and “”Pray for Me.” And as I join my heart to their song, I feel some more of the blankness and numbness dissipate even as I weep. There is no denial in their song that trauma in our world exists and has sorrowful effects, but there is also joy and hope and trust in the Holy One as well.
The days of sheltering in place, and rules and regulations continue. There is no date of expiration, which is in itself wearying. But there are also Mighty Clouds of Joy, there are gifts of Grace every day, there are communities of faithful folk who are doing everything they can to protect and care for those who are at risk, and the Holy One who hold us does not slumber or sleep or let us go. I am resting and practicing in that place on Good Days, Bad Days…even Thursdays!
Beautifully expressive of what so many of us are feeling!
Jan Gough said:
Elizabeth, I so look forward to singing along with you and this new-to-us-both group… across too many miles, but somehow together… I bow deeply to your honesty, trust and deep faith. Thank you!! sending love…
Sharon Bisaga said:
Liz, that was so honest. You put into words some of my own feelings. Thank you, Sharon
Lynette DuClos Adelson said:
“Stuck in the amber”, a perfect phrase for what I am feeling. Thank you for putting poetry to that stuck-on-the-inside-looking-out place I live in on ‘Thursdays”.
Karen Berns said:
Thank you for this sharing. With all the in-home time during Lent, I read deeply in various books and was so longing for resurrection & it came, thank God. But as you experience, for me, some Lenten cloudiness continues.
The mighty clouds of joy uplift me also with music, beloved Ken Medema’s, Maranatha Psalms & Gospel State of Mind. Grateful!
Coming again to a spiritual that has worked before and works differently but again strikes me as beautiful advice … I so often think — let me try something new. Instead something old may unfold with its new possibilities for this time.
Lovely and true. I have so enjoyed watching various renditions of Andrew Peterson’s call-and-response anthem, “Is He Worthy?” After too many years of limited choral singing ops (and an aging, tired voice), I love listening to (and singing along with) these beautifully arranged ‘virtual’ choirs. Sacred music has become my go-to daily practice right now. I have limited space or energy for much else.
Thank you for this.