Editor's note: This is the latest installment of a faith-based column written by local pastors on a rotating basis.
WORTHINGTON — I don’t know about you, but it seems to me our world has been turned upside down. We were dealing with the usual stuff like influenza, high school and college basketball tournaments and looking forward to the baseball season when we heard the news about COVID-19. It appeared our lives would be inconvenienced for a few weeks and then all would return to normal. Instead, it continues to dominate our reality even as other headline events come and go. We’ve seen hundreds and thousands of changes, large and small, in all areas of our lives.
As one who is convinced being optimistic and realistic is not an oxymoron, I suspect we will not be going back to the way things used to be. We will instead be moving into a new normal. The challenge is not what the new normal will be as how we as individuals will adjust.
I recently shared with our deacons and elders three actions we can take to help us with the adjustment: Breathe, Grieve and Achieve.
Breathe: Oftentimes when something happens to us or around us, our first response is to react without thinking. We seem to be wired to ‘do something' — right or wrong, we want to act. First responders can attest that taking the time to breathe gives time to assess the situation so their actions don’t make matters worse.
In much the same way, one of the most important steps for us to take as we deal with the crisis is to stop and breathe. Take time to assess the situation. Yup, the sun is still shining, the earth is still spinning and gravity hasn’t suddenly disappeared. Yup, I’m not in physical danger. Yup, there are still loved ones around who I care for and who still care for me. Yup, God is still in charge.
Grieve: Grieving is the acknowledgment of what we have lost. It is healthy to grieve, to acknowledge the loss. We are not limited to grieving when a friend or family member dies. We grieve the loss of jobs, pets, athletic ability or dreams. In this current environment, we are grieving the past as we remember it and the dreams we had for the future. The challenge when grieving is to not get stuck in the past. Part of the acknowledgement is that the situation has changed.
The blessing we have in Christ is death does not have the final word. We believe that God is still active in the world and present with us no matter what happens. We are assured of God’s never-failing love and God’s offering us a path from death and despair to life, which brings us to the third action.
Achieve: When we stop and breathe, it relieves the stress of addressing change and grieving allows us to refocus on those actions and attitudes that are vital in our life. Now it is time to move forward, to achieve. We begin by recognizing the gifts of life, family and friends, and giving thanks for these gifts. We look at the other gifts we have and find ways to use our talents and abilities to help others. We move forward guided by the great commandments, Love God and Love one another for, as Jesus said, “there is no law against these.”
May God’s love and presence fulfill in you the great work he has begun through Christ Jesus, and through him may you find life and hope in the new COVID-19 reality.
Galen Smith is pastor at Worthington's Westminster Presbyterian Church.