Loss, Love, and Cataracts

Something hard happened to me recently and it has knocked me for a serious loop. Of course, this hard thing happened during a global pandemic–which means resources were already low and energy drained.

It’s been a year and a half of pivoting, pivoting, and pivoting again; adapting to the first guidelines and then to the new guidelines based on new information, and then to the newest guidelines as numbers rise in our area; regularly working through all the questions: worship inside? outside? online? all three? when? how? with all the ensuing details each decision requires; and then providing pastoral care for the myriad strong reactions elicited by this constantly changing landscape.

It’s exhausting and frustrating for the congregation. It’s exhausting and frustrating for the pastors …and anyone in any helping profession …and anyone who is, well, human.

And then there are all the family adaptations and pivots and adjustments: online school or in person; masks or safe without them (thanks, Delta for ruining that!); class demands stacking up; the online hunt for the assignment list; extra days added onto the end of an already excruciating year for teachers, students, and families.

In the midst of this hard season, the other more “normal” hard things of life–illness, accidents, relational challenges, practical challenges, job stress, family needs, human error–feel so much more intense because we don’t have the reserves to deal with one more thing.

My years as a healthcare chaplain taught me that just as “deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts”(Ps. 42:7), loss calls to loss within us. Every new loss contains some of the echoes of old losses, old struggles, old pain.

In this on-going season, so much has been lost. And the losses keep coming, no end, no break in sight, each one stirring up parts of our stories we might rather stay buried.

Loss keeps calling to loss, over and over.

I’m finding some solace in the next lines of Psalm 42: “all your waves and your billows have gone over me. 8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”

Seasons like the one we are trying to live through have been a reality throughout creation. We are not unique and we are not alone. The Psalmist offers wisdom for these days, holding two truths at once: the struggle of being overwhelmed by waves and billows and the steadfast love of God. Out of that ability to hold both, the speaker aims the hard questions right where they belong: with God, the only place they can be held and honored as they deserve.

The final verse contains a gentle self-pep-talk: 11 “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”

I don’t have the reserves right now for my own self-pep-talk. I’m all self-pepped out. So I’m praying these verses, asking for help to keep learning how to hold two true things together at once.

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