The pelicans have arrived on Lake Okabena. Their huge, unwieldly bodies flap past our windows to settle in the middle of the lake, the definition of awkward beauty. Pelicans seem to be relaxed, laid-back birds. When they fly overhead in flocks, they fly in disarray, in lazy circles, in total disregard for order.
I can’t help but compare them to geese. I’m certain that any self-respecting goose — disciple of regiment and alphabetical precision — must shake his or her head in consternation at the pelican’s inability to keep within the lines. Come to think of it, the geese are probably shaking their heads at us now, too. Where we used to stand in lines like good little geese, now even those lines have six-foot gaps between each person.
Speaking of social distancing, pelicans are very good at it. They often float off alone, then circle back briefly to touch base with their comrades, then float off again independent of their pals, going where the current takes them. Even when waves toss them around, they ride it out, finding peace in the middle of the storm, feathers unruffled, without a worry. Almost as if they enjoy it.
I try not to worry. I give all of this crazy COVID mess to God. But I’m not sleeping well, and my dreams are bizarre, filled with vague corona-inspired concerns. I suppose that means, in the back of my mind, that I am indeed worried. That, despite my guarding against it, the insidious virus is creeping into my psyche.
When I’m awake, though unaware of feeling afraid, I find myself feeling guilty for finding blessings in the midst of the unpleasant present.
More than once this past week — through Zoom or phone calls — I mentioned a feeling of guilt about enjoying this time at home, and each time people assured me that it’s good to find positives in any hardship. I totally agree, and I have even espoused that very idea in recent columns, yet I still feel something akin to survivor guilt, on a small level, that my husband is able to keep working (as am I for a few hours a day) and that I’m loving having my children home to cherish. I’m enjoying having time to read and work puzzles and dust long-forsaken shelves. I’m enjoying the bread making (though I totally ruined my first attempt at Swedish Tea Ring last week), and I’m enjoying having an excuse to avoid grocery shopping.
All of that enjoyment makes me feel guilty. Makes me feel privileged in this time, which is so difficult for so many. But then, twice this week in my Bible readings, I have found reason to embrace the beauty in the brokenness of our present world.
In the book "One Thousand Gifts Devotional" by Ann Voskamp, she wrote, “Lord, draw me nearer to the scratched situations in my life, the scarred places. Get me close enough to You to see the beauty in them.”
Well, we’ve got plenty of scratched and scarred places in our lives right now, haven’t we? Yet Voskamp prays to get close enough to those places to see the beauty in spite of the blemishes.
Beauty in the broken. Glory in the scars. Calm in the middle of the storm.
And then, the next day, I read Proverbs 14:13. “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief” (NIV).
Wow. I needed that. It’s OK to laugh and cry at the same time. It doesn’t nullify the grief to find a little joy.
There are blessings to be found right now, and that’s not just OK, it’s good. It doesn’t mean the losses aren’t profound. It doesn’t guarantee a good sleep. But it does bring a little bit of peace when the waves are crashing all around.
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.