Friends, I am struggling. Those close to me are not shocked by this because when they have checked in on me, I fumble through poorly worded responses. This has been going on for a while, but I think I am finally coming to terms with it. This season of life has turned me upside down. Most days, I live in one of two states: 1) Sad. 2) Mad.
In recent days, sad and mad have turned into apathy. Apathy is not something many people would use to describe my disposition toward life. Apathy is not a good place for me.
The smoke. Seeing more clearly the struggle of Black lives in this country and my city. Covid-19. Online school. Canceled hockey. These things have taken a toll on me.
I miss sharing meals with friends. I miss learning about Jesus with my church. I miss the spontaneous meetups with my community. I miss holding the babies. I miss hanging with my neighbors. I miss my friends who moved away. I miss blowing my whistle in cold hockey rinks yelling phrases that make no sense outside of the hockey community.
I’m sad. I’m mad. And I am increasingly apathetic.
All of the emotions are happening all the time at once. I don’t frequent these feelings in regular life, whatever regular life is, but these days it’s where I live.
Here’s the thing. I need to find a healthy way forward. Covid-19 is not going away. My need for community is not going away. Working to dismantle white supremacy is not going away. The invitation to follow Jesus is not going away. Thank God the smoke went away!
Many years ago, I read a book by Michael Frost about some practices his community in Australia observe on the regular. I remember being so compelled by the idea of organizing life around patterns that form a people in the way of Jesus. To make the rule of life memorable, they built their practices around the acronym “BELLS.” So I checked back in with BELLS this week. I thought some were a fit, but others weren’t, so I rewrote them for such a time as this.
So here are my BELLS for the season. How long is this season? I don’t know, but here it is:
Each week (at least), I will “bless” someone. Now I know this word is churchy, but the idea is simply to notice someone and move toward them thoughtfully. For example, last week, amid the smoke and forced homeschooling, my sister-in-law sent us a gift certificate for UberEats. She recognized how hard this season is as parents of young kids (can I get an amen?), and, in an incredibly thoughtful gesture, took us to dinner from Michigan. The gift card was fantastic, but the blessing was the reminder that we are not alone. The blessing was solidarity.[T]he blessing was the reminder that we are not alone. The blessing was solidarity. ~ Cory Doiron Click To Tweet
Each week, eat with someone. Simple, right? Well, it used to be. Maybe we can’t do this like we are used to. Maybe you bring your own food or sit 6 feet apart, but I think we can get creative and share a meal with someone. Eating with others is a central rhythm in the life of Jesus. It was central to the early church. It has been central to our shared life here in Portland. It is pretty hard to find a fruitful community anywhere in history that did not eat together. It might take a little more effort, but it needs to happen, so I will find a way.
Each week, I will learn from Jesus. I don’t mean this abstractly. I am committing to spending time weekly reading, reflecting, and applying the words of Jesus. Living in the way of Jesus is the deepest commitment of my life. Over the last few months, I’ve spent way too much time on Twitter and news sites and almost no time considering the words of Jesus. This practice is me coming back to my first love–Jesus.
Each week, I will listen to BIPOC voices. For me, this is a spiritual act. Part of reading Jesus is recognizing where he tells us he is. Jesus tells us he is with those who have been most oppressed by empires. As someone who has greatly benefited from the current empires of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism, my liberation, according to Jesus, is wrapped up in the liberation of those not benefiting. In this process, I am praying the request a blind man once spoke to Jesus, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. I want to see.”
Each week, I will TURN MY PHONE OFF for 24 hours. I will build some rituals around this with my family and my faith community (#FAM), but the point is this: Objectively speaking, my phone has become a problem in my life. It’s the first thing I look at when I wake up and the last thing I look at before I go to bed. I look at it when I am waiting for anything, even when I poop! I look at it intermittently while playing with my kids, hanging out with my friends, and even while I sit at our kitchen table with my wife. It has replaced any chance of boredom and now has mined attention from those I love deeply. As a result, I lack presence. I am less present to everyone I love. I am less present to what is going on in me, through me, and around me. I am less present to what God is inviting me into. My phone has become a constant escape hatch from a world I am struggling with right now. This ancient practice of Sabbath is calling me back to a life of presence. So the phone will go off, and I’ll spend the 24 hours resting with family, friends, and neighbors learning to be present again. Who knows? Maybe I will rediscover the gift of boredom.
These practices may continue to develop as we go, but for now, I’m wondering… Do you resonate with these? Would a set rhythm of life be helpful for you during this time? What might that look like for you?
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