By Demi Prentiss, reprinted from Living God’s Mission.
Much of the world is sharing the experience of “sheltering in place” to “flatten the curve” in the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us are dealing, simultaneously, with an unfamiliar cascade of emotions. Who would imagine looking to Harvard Business Review for guidance? So Scott Berinato’s recent HBR article was a surprising gift.
“We feel the world has changed, and it has.….The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air,” Berinato writes. And along with that collective grief, he points out, we share anticipatory grief: “Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst.” Once we can find the courage to name our grief, Berinato urges we engage in calming strategies:
- Come into the present.
- Let go of what you can’t control.
- Stock up on compassion.
For me, in these recent weeks, my own grief has gathered around my decision not to go to the front lines, to mitigate some of the devastating effects of the pandemic. My age and my husband’s health make that foolhardy. My lifelong commitment to daily life ministry is challenged, as I discover what “being the church” means when my mission field is defined by the boundaries of my home. The internet, of course, extends my reach, and my extrovert reaches out in multiple ways.
Nevertheless, I’m challenged to claim the mission I’ve been given. What would Jesus do? I’m working to practice the Benedictine virtue of “stability” – staying put. Poet Mark Nepo offers an encouraging, hopeful perspective.
“… We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
Perhaps we can learn to befriend the grief we’re feeling. Perhaps we can recognize that acceptance, as Nepo describes it, can mean simply showing up, with intention. For many of us, showing up as our authentic selves is the way we practice our ministry in daily life. As we show up, we have the opportunity to be the hands and feet and presence of Jesus, remembering the words of Mordecai to Queen Esther (Esther 4:14): “Who knows? Perhaps you have come [here] … for just such a time as this.” (NRSV)