grace, Growth, Life

Heavy Feelings and Lite Clam Chowder

My phone was blowing up with emails yesterday. Maybe yours was, too. Updates about closures and cancellations flooded my inbox.

So when yet another email came through, I simply didn’t want to open it.

But there it was.

Canceled.

No more sports for the foreseeable future. My daughter has found her niche in competitive volleyball. In just this first season, she’s gained so many life lessons. Additionally, she’s gained self-confidence and courage that has helped begin to shape the person she is becoming.

But now it’s over.

All practices and tournaments are canceled. In a matter of seconds.

I’m feeling some feelings right now. I think we all are. And some of those feelings you might not want to whisper out loud. Maybe for fear of being the only one, or fear of seeming insensitive. Or maybe you don’t want to speak those words because you worry someone will tell you to look at the big picture and get over the canceled games.

So I hesitated to write about it at first, because my sad feelings seem insignificant in light of what some families are feeling and the fear they are facing with friends and loved ones who are at extreme risk right now.

We, rightfully so, want to be respectful and honor those who are at such great risk at being negatively affected by this virus. We do not minimize their fear and concern. We are more than willing to follow the recommended closures and social limitations.

But I still think it’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be disappointed. It’s ok to grieve for our lost experiences and opportunities.

Graduations are canceled.

Spring Break trips are canceled.

Senior mission trips are canceled.

Concerts are canceled.

Broadway shows are canceled.

Tournaments are canceled.                                                     

Church services are canceled.

Trips to Disney World are canceled!

Name What is Lost

The opportunities to make memories and experiences were all taken away in one instant. In one email, text message, or Facebook post, our potential memories were snatched away.

I’ve found myself wrestling with the real source of the tears I felt brimming all day yesterday, and I realized that it all simply means that I have some feelings. And it’s ok to feel our feelings. All of them. Not one is unwarranted or underserved. Lean into them. Experience the pain of loss and disappointment. Grieve what will not be. It’s a real kind of loss.

In the midst of COVID-19, feeling sad about missing out on plans feels a little small in the big scheme of things, I admit. But our lives are actually made up of all of those small moments. In the churning storm of the scared, uncertain, and fearful emotions, I think we are also allowed to feel the sadness of what we have lost.

This all feels like a bad dream (or a nightmare) for many. I feel angry. The anger, I realize, stems from feeling a loss of control (hello, anxiety, my old friend) and helplessness to do something. But it also stems from being totally disappointed at losing many things that we hold dear. Family time. Worship time. Vacation time. We’ve all lost our predictable routines. We’ve lost a sense of security. We’ve lost the illusion that we are ever fully in control of anything.

It’s why I’m forever grateful for the assurance of a God who is in control. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

He can shine light into the darkness. He can bring hope to the hopeless. He can work all things out for our good. Romans 8:28 reminds us that “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Where is the Good?

You (and my daughter) might ask, “Exactly what good comes from something like this”?

Just in the past 48 hours, I’ve witnessed people working together to provide for those in need, and strangers finding a common bond. I remember seeing similar situations happening in the days following the 9-11 attacks. We were united in our pain, fear, and struggle at that time. This is a different circumstance, certainly, but our universal emotions continue to connect us.

I’ve read about communities banding together to provide food for children who will not be receiving their meals at school for several weeks.

People are going to experience additional family time, and maybe even drag out some board games that have taken a back seat to practices, sports, and weekly obligations.

Some of us may finally find time to step off the hamster wheel for a moment and simply rest. True rest, without the burden of guilt that they should be doing something “productive”.

I found myself chatting with a complete stranger in the soup aisle at the grocery store. We stood there side by side, staring at nearly empty shelves, except for about 14 remaining cans of Progresso “light” Clam Chowder. We laughed together over the fact that even in the midst of a global pandemic, people still aren’t desperate enough to eat some low-cal canned mollusk.

I have to believe that there will be good that comes from this. It’s ok if we don’t see that now. Or anytime soon, for that matter. But that’s where my faith has to step in. Otherwise, I would be desperate to find a glimmer of hope from the media or all the memes going around the internet. And as we know, those things do not have a track record you can bank on for your peace and security.

Our hope and peace can ultimately only be found in Christ.

Moving Forward

In the coming days, we can extend love and care to those around us. We are all in this together. Literally all of us. I could not imagine there is even one person who has remained unaffected in some way.

So go ahead and feel all the feelings. I think it’s ok to hold fear and tension in one hand, but still cling tightly to our faith in the other. We can still be brave in the face of uncertainty. Having faith doesn’t mean you’re never going to feel sad, afraid, or worried. But it does mean we don’t have to let those things control our every thought.

Name your feelings. Call them out for what they are. Sit with them for a bit. When I find myself wound up to the point of literally pacing the floors, this tends to helpevery time. Then with a clear mind I realize that what I’m fighting so hard against actually comes from my own mind and I can begin pushing back against it.

Most of us are feeling all the feelings. Frustration. Fear. Disappointment. Confusion. Worry. Apprehension. Anger. I try to remember that everyone processes emotion differently. I try to extend a little extra grace when I see there is not one loaf of bread left in the store. Let’s just give each other the space to feel all the feelings for a bit. Then together and with time, we’ll be able to move forward.

Love each other. Share your toilet paper. And if you have the opportunity to laugh with a stranger in the soup aisle, I highly recommend it.

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