6 min. to read.
The fall schedule is upon us! After more than a year of everyone in my family being in the same place all the time, life has exploded. Four different schools and school schedules, three different jobs and work schedules, church roles, life management. I like new starts usually. For me, fall has always meant anticipation and growing enthusiasm. But this time around, as I reflected on our circumstances, different feelings are bubbling up for me.
Truth be told, I’m disappointed. I thought fall would look different. Many of us buckled down and made sacrifices. We took safety precautions seriously, and that wasn’t a small thing. We expected that short-term sacrifices would result in a faster return “to normal.” We are not back to normal. The horizon for when that might happen (if ever) is becoming increasingly unclear. I have feelings about this.
I’m going to share some of those in a moment. As I do, I ask for grace. Hear these words as an expression of emotion, not an objective statement of judgment about others. I’m talking about my inner landscape here.
Don’t like it. Don’t like it at all.
Our work of deconstruction was not malicious or irresponsible—just the opposite. We wanted to preserve, even
I’m sad about the time that feels lost. I’m anxious about our increasingly uncertain future. I’m feeling fearful about the world my teenage children are stepping into. I’m angry with people who opted out of the group project of community health. I feel betrayed by some in my extended Christian community, those who seem to see freedom in Christ as permission to pursue personal comfort and preference rather than an invitation to give ourselves away for the benefit of others. The future feels bleak, a tangle of complications we don’t have the will to solve.
Forgive me… I know pastors are supposed to be encouraging and hopeful. I share my feelings here because I want to make clear that it’s ok for you to feel what you feel, too. I may not be right in my interpretation of my emotions. My feelings may not allow space for nuance about why people make their choices. I understand that. Even so, we still feel what we feel. Acknowledging the truth of our inner landscape is necessary for what comes next.
See, I want to live the next months faithful to Jesus with a deep faith optimism. I want to treat the people in front of me with compassion. I want to live guided by the other-centered, co-suffering love of God and do so with joy and gratitude. Maybe you feel similarly.
We can’t do those things if we choose denial. Plastering a Bible verse bandaid or worship song analgesic on top of our feelings won’t help for long. That path is superficial, a kind of spiritualized bypassing. How then can we walk through this?
How can we walk forward?
The only path forward is confession. We might think of confession as “admitting fault” or confessing our sins to God to receive forgiveness. Instead, think more broadly. Confession is the spiritual practice of naming what is true. In the presence of God, we say, “Yep. This is me. This is where I’m at. For good and for bad, this is the whole of me.”
I’m bringing all my complicated feelings before God and naming them. I acknowledge that I can’t just change these feelings on my own. I name my uncertainty. I don’t know how we’re going to navigate this next year. I name my fear. I don’t have it in me to do another year of COVID. I name all of that before God. I confess my frustration, and I offer it as a sacrifice. God, I don’t know what to do with all of this. Here I am.
That is my confession. What’s yours? Our confession gives God space to apply grace to our tired hearts. Our honesty before God is the open doorway for the Spirit to empower us for moment-by-moment faithfulness.
We are not the only people to feel this way. The Biblical record suggests that living in a time of trial is a pretty common experience. Here’s just one example from Isaiah 43. In a time of deep uncertainty and displacement, the prophet Isaiah articulated God’s presence for the exiled Hebrews. First, he acknowledged their painful circumstances that felt like fire and flood. Then he encouraged them to trust. God would bring them through.
“Thus says the Lord, He who created you…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned…because you are precious in my sight…and I love you.” (Read the whole chapter! It’s moving.)
So, here I am. I am present to the tension of my inner world. I am sad and disappointed. I’m angry, feeling put upon. I cannot see the future clearly, and that raises my anxiety level. And yet…
And yet, I can rest—we can rest—in the hands of the One who made us, knows us, and intends our good. We are here to participate in the Divine work of bringing the good and beautiful to life. Even in a pandemic. Even in a time of conflict. Even when we can barely see one step ahead.
I don’t have a plan or model for this year. Maybe, in some ways, that’s an improvement. I believe Jesus walks with us. I don’t know enough to solve the problems ahead of us, yet I believe Spirit guides.
As this new season begins, I encourage you to take a moment and be survey your inner world. In God’s presence, name the state of your heart. Invite the Spirit to apply the grace you need to walk step-by-step into the world you find yourself in, faithful in the midst of your uncertainty.
2 thoughts on “Make an offering of frustration.”
I am deeply disappointed as well. Working in a hospital and seeing the numbers of patients staying at an all-time high in our area is directly related to the removal of mask mandates locally. Folks threw caution to the wind. Not enough of our population received the vaccine to have the effect it was supposed to. And now hospitals are losing staff in droves for two reasons: the ones who are flat burnt out and can’t do it anymore, and the ones who refuse to obey the mandate and get the vaccine. (If health care workers won’t get it, it’s no wonder John Q Public won’t.)
The devil must be jumping for joy at all the dissension caused by the pandemic. Sad thing is, too many Christians have propagated his cause unwittingly with their hatred. They think they are doing the right thing, when in reality they are being used as pawns. I find no satisfaction in hearing about the deaths from Covid of people who were vehemently opposed to all the mandates; just a profound sadness at the waste of life that could have been prevented.
I have found the online community in many ways just as depressing as the vitriol I see from the public in person. Your post brings me hope that there are people of faith out there who have listened to reason. Best wishes on your pursuit of a master’s degree!
Hey Shauna, thanks for sharing so honestly about your experience. This is such a hard season, and it’s hard to know how best to respond. I’m praying that you and the rest of us will see clear ways to love those around us and walk faithfully the path Jesus showed us.