The SOOPers came into town yesterday and when I saw them today at the café, I momentarily forgot that this wasn’t just a normal year. The SOOP program is run through the Mennonite Mission Network. Each year volunteer retirees from Mennonite churches across the country spend several weeks completing projects at other churches, including all types of construction and hospitality. Having the SOOPers visit is always such a blessing at this time of year after the joy and togetherness of Christmas has waned and life feels like it is accelerating back up to the normal warp speed at which it seems to run.
This year, returning to what-now-passes-for-normal feels especially hard. Part of me wants to yell out loud, “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to go back to this version of reality! It’s so frustrating! I don’t want to stay home anymore, but then also feel anxious every time I go out. I don’t want to stand 6 feet apart anymore. I don’t want to have to guess if someone is smiling beneath their mask anymore. I don’t want to try and fail to get my kids sit in front of a computer for certain hours of the day and then to try and fail to keep them from sitting in front of a computer for all the other hours of the day. I don’t want to worry anymore about needing to cough but then trying not to, or if someone else next to me just coughed, or maybe that was just a hiccup? I don’t want to keep having nightmares where I’ve forgotten my mask and I’m on a crowded train. I don’t want to have to keep calculating how much risk is acceptable to see my sister-in-law (To see my sister-in-law! I mean I’m not talking about skydiving here!) I don’t want to have to keep wondering about mutations and whether or not there are enough vaccine doses. I don’t want to have to attempt the tragic impossibility of keeping track of all of the people I know who are in quarantine or who are sick or who are recovering. It’s awful!”
But then even just thinking all of that just makes me feel like such a complainer and I just want to bury it and pretend like everything is fine and we’re all doing great and my new schedule is amazing and I’m feeling really, really present moment-to-moment. I imagine in my head that everyone else seems to be hanging in there so well. It’s just me. I’m the only one that is struggling and weak and not able to handle it all.
What a rabbit hole we climb down!
I was reading a story the other day about an active couple whose new baby was born blind. And how, instead of sitting with pity for themselves or grief for their baby, they are climbing mountains and adapting and bringing life and grace to what they have been given. I know in my heart that this is how we humans are called to create, to constantly bring new life into our difficult realities. We are called to create in the way that God is continually creating new life in us. God is involved in our lives. If we allow God to love through us, then we can participate in the miracle of the ongoing creation of good.
To get there, we have to get through the frustration. It’s good to express it. I’m sure this couple that I read about did feel grief and frustration and pity. It’s just that we can’t stay there. Then we have to ask God for help so that we can be shown the miracles that surround us and so that we can participate in the transformation of suffering into healing in all the ways that God has planned for us.
That’s what the SOOPers remind me of: creativity, energy, the ingenuity given by grace to participate in the transformation of whatever we have been given into something full of life. They are also a reminder of all the good that is all around us, because I could have made (and should make) an equally long list of miracles that I have witnessed in this last year.
I am grateful for Mark and Jeanne that are back again with us and for the new couple that will be joining them soon. I am grateful for all that they bring in their spirit and all that they bring by the Spirit. And I will try to keep knowing that it is okay to be sad and frustrated and that also there is so much more to be thankful for and that if I am open to it and can come to be in God’s presence, then I can participate in the miracle of creation in me and through me and around me each day.