Sometimes, you find some words that make struggle easier to bear. I recently found some good words and want to share them with you. They are from Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, who serves the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, MO. She recently preached a sermon on navigating uncertainty, which included the following passage.
“Here are a few that I have been using, framed helpfully as commands, because maybe it feels good to be bossed around when we are feeling overwhelmed. But really, they are simply reminders of what your body knows, of what the ancestors of our faith traditions have taught, of what we’ve been practicing together for years.
- Quadruple down on your spiritual practices… The things that keep you living the life you are living in this moment, not some other life or moment. The things that allow your spirit to settle from the flurry and sink back into your body. These practices need not be a lofty hour of meditation, as long as you are present to them. A walk with the dog will do. Or a moment with a poem. Nursing the baby. Making a meal. Just do the thing with your whole self and the intention to practice and it is a spiritual practice.
- Put some pleasurable thing on your calendar that will be reliable no matter what is unfolding around you. Make a date and keep it. On Friday I am going to make chocolate mousse. On Tuesday I am going to call my best friend…
- Find something to give thanks for every day. Not as a tool of spiritual bypass demanding that you somehow re-frame or breeze by your suffering. But as a reminder that the world is beautiful and terrible and we can’t forget about the beauty if we are to survive the terror.
Here’s a quick tool for recognizing and avoiding spiritual bypass – if you find yourself following your suffering with “but, at least, I should be glad for.” Stop and try again. There is no “But” or “at least” or “should” about your suffering. It is a truth in and of itself.
True gratitude in hard times looks something like a deep “and.”
“I am in terrible pain. And I am being held tenderly.” “This loss is shattering. And my community is showing up for me.” That “and” is the best theology there is, in the face of suffering.
- When you are surrounded by way too many questions and options, drill down to the smallest bit… Just do the next right thing. And then the next. And then the next. Suddenly, you’re somewhere different than where you started and new options open before you.
- And when you feel totally robbed of options, be so intentional about the decisions that you are able to make. Here are two revelatory, and deceptively simple questions to ask yourself, depending on the situation: “What do I prefer?” and “What does love look like right now?”
- Turn off the news. Or log off the doom-scrolling. You cannot information your way through this, and most of our sources are intentionally calibrated to keep our bodies on high alert so we always want more. Opt out. Curate your social media feed to be mostly funny cat pics and babies. And for God’s sake turn off the cable news. Switch to the classical station with the five minute news update on the hour. It is enough.
- Rigorously pursue soothing and comfort for your body, which is constantly being activated into stress response right now. Start by noticing several times a day that you have a body. What’s going on below your neck? Continue by asking yourself how you can be 5% more comfortable. Maybe you need a cushion. Maybe you need a heavy blanket. Maybe you need a walk. Maybe you need to drink some water. You probably need to drink some water.
- Finally, for now… Remember that you are not alone. Reach out to the people who can support you and rely on them. Reach out to your church if nothing else. Ask for what you need. Be reliable to your people, in return.
Stay soft, my dear ones, and we will make it through this stumbling.”
A Note on Rachel’s Schedule
I will be continuing to take a vacation day every week to support my eldest child with remote kindergarten. I will generally not be working on Mondays and Tuesdays. I will be less responsive on email. If you need to reach me quickly, please call or text me. Thank you for your generosity and flexibility.