A not OK Musing 9/30/2020
I am not OK
This week someone asked me a typical question…One we all get when we are out and about like at work or at the store or even walking down the street. It is simply “Hi, how are things?”
And I responded as you are supposed to - with a smile under my mask and a stout - “Everything is OK.”
But I must confess that that declaration was a lie. Because while we are all making it day by day nothing right now is really ok.
We may not want to say it out loud, but you and I know it is true.
I mean even though we have found ways to move forward and even do some pretty amazing things - everything is not OK.
If it was “ok” life would be normal, but the truth is life is anything but normal.
If it were ok, we wouldn’t be wondering how to greet folks when we meet them since handshakes and hugs are now not ok.
If it were ok, we would not have parents agonizing over whether or not to send kids to school or do school virtually.
If it were ok, we would not be worried about making sure we have masks and hand sanitizer before we go out to pick up something we ordered with touchless curbside delivery.
And if everything were ok, I would not worry about my car getting keyed for putting the stickers of a candidate I support on it.
Nor would I place the signs about concerns or issues or causes I support in well-lit areas of my yard because I fear they might be stolen.
If everything was ok, racial tension would not be at an all-time high in this century.
If everything was ok, I wouldn’t lose friends over opinions. And there would not be profanity-laced screaming at one another over scientific facts.
If everything was OK, I would not have gotten a hate email in the church email box over our denomination’s support of women and minority groups and the marginalized and who we ordain into the mission and ministry of the church.
We are making it, but things are not ok.
Because the truth is while I am proud we have never missed a Sunday of worship during the pandemic because of our quick albeit clumsy move to virtual worship, it is not the same and does not feel ok.
And while I rejoice that we have found a way for our food ministry to continue in a new way, I miss our monthly Friends Feeding Friends meal.
And every week I enjoy gathering in fellowship on Zoom, but it is not the same as gathering around the table for Potluck Sunday.
And while I am beyond impressed that schools from Pre-K through Grad school have continued to educate students online, many of those kids and teachers are just surviving and not thriving…and that is not ok.
And yes I know that so many other great things are occurring in areas I have no idea about including all the great things the heroes in our medical community have done…but the truth is in spite of all of the amazing things and great accomplishments and scientific discoveries and creativity and more, everything is not ok.
The truth is I (like I am sure many of you) are tired. We are frustrated. We are sometimes angry. We are mourning all that we have lost. We are often stressed out. We miss relationships. We struggle some days just to make it through. And many of us are just plain sad.
And while we are trying to make things seem normal by calling this the “new normal” we know that there is nothing normal about this.
And while we will take some of what we are learning from this experience with us into the future, we are praying for at least some things to go back to the old normal.
I would be a lot more ok if I could give an actual hug when someone is hurting.
And I’d be better if weddings and funerals and graduations would resume in person.
I pray for the day when I can physically serve you each the bread and the cup.
And I’d like to eat inside a restaurant. And go to a show. And visit loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes. And go to a ball game and give a stranger a high five. And visit an amusement park.
And I’d be a lot better if we could have civil discourse. If we could discuss issues and still remain friends. If we would seek to be kind…to care for others the same way we want to be cared for…and to disagree without being disagreeable.
Friends, we are making it, but we are not ok.
The hard question is what do we as a people of faith do about this and what do we do to get through this and all the hard times?
Well since we as Christians are known as people of “The Book,” I typically begin by looking at scripture when confronted with hard questions, and in this case, I was drawn to John 16:33.
In case you have not been practicing for the Bible Sword Drill and Scripture memorization competitions, Jesus is speaking to the disciples and concludes with “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face thlípsis. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
You might not have recognized one of the words in there. Perhaps you said “that word is Greek to me.” If you did you are correct – it is Greek. Actually, it is the English alphabetic translation of θλῖψιν.
Often it is translated to the word tribulation. And while it is technically correct it is not fully descriptive of what Jesus was saying. Below are two full descriptions of the word and its full meaning.
thlípsis – in a state of stress, pressure (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that "hems someone in"; tribulation, especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, "without options").
thlípsis ("compression, tribulation") carries the challenge of coping with the internal pressure of a tribulation, especially when feeling there is "no way of escape" ("hemmed in").
Notice that what is most often mentioned is the experience of an internal pressure, of being hemmed in with no escape and no options in sight.
How many of us are experiencing this and have been now for quite some time?
It does not matter about your gender or pronoun preference or sexuality, your age or income bracket, whether you are a liberal or conservative or moderate, the pigmentation of your skin, if you are tall or short or in between - we are all living in times of thlípsis.
Surely Jesus and his disciples knew of such times.
Additionally, Jesus promises in this verse such times would continue. Not once does Jesus declare that we would live stress-free lives or experience that long-promised day on this side of eternity.
However, we are promised that such a day exists. One day all will be made right, but until that time we must keep walking in faith doing all we can to show the world glimpses of the kingdom that we have all been promised.
So, it is ok to not be ok. For we are living in the midst of stressful times.
And it is ok to pray for things to be better. In fact, we are called to pray for such. However, we are also called to work for better times even when we are experiencing thlípsis.
Because we know that in life and in death we belong to God. That Jesus has conquered the world and that nothing in life or death can separate us from the love of God.
Thanks be to God.