Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. ~ Frederick Buechner – originally published in ‘Wishful Thinking’.
The New York Times recently published an article proposing that because of the health care restrictions of the Pandemic, that many of us were experience life as ‘languishing’. Languishing is considered an emotional state somewhere between depression and, well ‘flourishing’ and is a state of being where we are aimless, unmotivated and just kind of generally ‘blah’. As if we can’t live our life to the fullness because our activity and our relationships are limited. It’s a sense of stagnation – of emptiness – like we are peering out at life on a rainy afternoon. (And I write this as I peer out my window at a rainy morning!). I know that I have had times where my purpose and my call has seemed difficult and unattainable during this latest lock-down. I have lamented a couple of times that I was never taught to do ministry during a Pandemic. Or that online worship is just. So. Hard. Or I have listed the things that I can’t do: I can’t hug my friends, I can’t go out for a meal, I can’t visit people that I care about deeply.
Yeah. I know. I have spent a whole lot of time whining.
And no – I never was taught how to do ministry in a Pandemic. Nor was I taught how to do online worship. And I’m restricted in many of the things that I have found fulfilling and meaningful. Its as if the restrictions have robbed me of my vocation, my way of living and even my sense of Call.
But see – the thing is – that’s simply not true.
My ‘deep gladness’ has always been found in ministry. Specifically in rural and small church ministry. My other ‘deep gladness’ is found in the formation of community and the love that’s there; as in Bethel. And, guess what?
I’m still doing ministry.
I’m still doing ministry in a rural setting.
I’m still part of Community and all of the love that’s there.
My deep gladness is still being met with the world and the world’s needs. Which means, basically, that I’m still living into my Call or my vocation, and that basically my whining is just that; whining.
So, while it is really tough to figure my way through this pandemic and a good deal of the time I am finding that I’m languishing – well – when I step back and look at things through God’s eyes or even scriptural eyes, I’m flourishing. The ‘languishing’ has clouded my Vision and made it seem as if there aren’t things that are fulfilling or meaningful at this time. But – that’s simply not true in the most basic of ways.
In my world, the opposite of Truth is Lies. And, in my world, the author of Lies is Evil. Which, if you follow my thinking means that Languishing is actually Evil. Its Evil because it robs us of joy and meaning. Its Evil because it means that we can’t see our flourishing through the haze of the Lies. Its Evil because it means that we can’t see Good and we don’t “work together for Good” (a really really big interpretational leap of Romans 8:28). And its Evil because it destroys us and destroys our community.
And the antidote of course, is Truth. This is where the real work comes in. To look firmly at Truth as opposed to Lies requires a whole lot of discipline and effort on our part; a hard thing to do when we are Languishing. So, instead of leaping in like Pollyanna and transforming your thinking in one grand gesture of gratitude, I would instead invite you to change one aspect of your life for Flourishing. Our scriptures tell us that we need to ‘think on’ a whole pile of things that are the opposite of languishing :
“Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4: 8).
Today, I’ll invite you to pick one of those things and find something in your day that fulfills it. And then fill your mind with it, instead of the grayness of your restrictions. And this week? Well, this week I want you to look honestly at your life and bring to mind what your ‘deep gladness’ is. Where do you find your greatest joy? Where does this meet our worlds deep needs? You see – I’m thinking that if we can focus our worldview on the things that are working and what we actually find fulfilling, well then we might just find ourselves flourishing. Flourishing at the most unlikely of times. But, in the end, I believe that that is what we are Called to be.
Blessings today, and remember you are Loved. (OOOOOH look at that – a good thing to ‘think on’)
PS – Pictures today are things that remind me of ‘Flourishing’; the view from my office window, the contact tracing and handsanitizing station at the door to the Hall (you care deeply about keeping each other safe) and the quilted bag that Linda Hamon made me so I can cart all of my ‘stuff’ in style. The featured image (banner at the top) is a simple dandelion – but doesn’t it look so cheery!