I'm home for good from college, and this has been what has going through my mind.
“Just take a breath and stop!” was the message I received from a beloved Pastor and mentor of mine this week. Truthfully, she didn’t know that this time in social isolation has been so hard on me, especially given that this conversation had nothing to do with the pandemic, but her words spoke deeper than they were intended. They pierced my soul, and I didn’t know why. I felt convicted by them.
She wasn’t meaning to, but she was preaching to me.
I thrive on being busy. I cannot count on my hands how many organizations I belong to, how many activities I enjoy, or how many people I want to help, and right now I could not feel more useless. Cooped up in my parent’s house I sit, watching Netflix and browsing social media, I feel like I am not contributing in any way; and in a time when the world needs to hear a message of Good News more than ever, I am trapped in my house.
My sometimes overly-extroverted personality has no good place in this pandemic. #StayAtHome, though crucial to the health of my community and this nation, has become my worst enemy. While some of my peers are thriving in an online environment, I am somehow both bored and stressed. I am so unmotivated and even if I was motivated, I don’t know what I would be motivated for. I'm convinced that time no longer exists, and instead the moments seem to string together like an out of tune orchestra that doesn't stop playing.
Did I eat yet?
Even more so than my feeling of being trapped, I feel like a waste of breath. I feel value and great personal reward in helping people, and to some extent, feel worth because of it. This isn’t meant to sound self-righteous, believe me - but I think it’s playing into my feeling of uselessness, and I do not think I am alone in that feeling. I joined the Marine Reserves to help my country in time of need, I started the Interfaith Leadership Club to pursue relationships with others in order to pursue justice together, I served on Student Government to fight for the interests of students, I am pursuing a career in ministry that requires one to pour into others as a vocation. It is difficult for me to accept that staying at home and doing next to nothing is the best way that I could help. Much of my youth and adult life has been oriented at how to bring good to the world, and here I sit, watching as the word is on fire and I cannot do a single thing about it – useless.
I have engaged in periods of time when I was purposefully relaxed. In fact, I attempt to do so every day to some extent, knowing that to do good in the world, one needs to have the mindset to do so; every human needs rest. I enjoy going to Sunday morning services and feeling rested as I leave. I enjoy hanging out with my friends and relaxing with them. But this was different. I didn’t intend on coming home. I didn’t intend on resting this much. I have no control over what I cannot do and then her words – just take a breath and stop - seemed so insulting in the moment. What else am I supposed to do? I am stopped! I am breathing! I cannot do anything else BUT stop.
Later, as I was lamenting on the phone to a close friend about being "trapped" at home, the Pastor’s words rang again in my head. It hit me like a wall alongside the words of Psalm 46:
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."
God is giving me more space to breathe, more time to stop, than I have ever been rewarded in my life, and yet I am throwing it away. I can’t afford to do that.
I was not giving myself the space needed to cope with the situation. I lost my senior year, but I tried to set aside my anger in order to be productive, never dealing with the emotional baggage that came with the abrupt end to what was supposed to be the best of times. I never got to say goodbye and hug people that I have grown very close with over the past 3 years of my life, nor celebrate what is to come – grad school and jobs in a great economy for most, if not all, of us. Relationships that took years to build were suddenly made difficult or impossible because of something so highly unpredicted and unusual. I am now taking online classes, watching as frustrated professors still attempt to pour one last bit of knowledge into us before we leave, but doing so in a way that has lost all the rewards of the personal relationships that come with being at a small college. I was not giving myself the space needed to further listen to God’s calling, instead filling my mind with stressful thinking. I am not giving myself the time to process the grief that I have accrued.
I realized that I am not exalting God by fretting over things that I cannot control. I am not exalting God by pushing my emotions aside. I am not living a worshipful lifestyle by rejecting this time of rest that God has demanded on me. I realized I need to change.
I am sharing this because I know I can’t be the only one. I have never shared anything this personal on my website, but I am worried that other people like me have not gotten to this point, or conversely maybe you have, and you need to tell me how you are coping. I don’t exactly know what to do, but I think that I will be more intentional about my stopping.
I realize that, while I am being forced to cease my activity, I can control how I use it stop and breathe.
"Go in peace."