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Reaching to God When I Don’t Feel ReadyBy Sarah Diener-Schlitt
Weeks ago, I turned in a blog post about our environment. Smack dab in the middle of Lent, I considered the need for us to confess to the damage we have done to the world, the failings we have committed as the stewards of creation. I likened what our world is going through– the extreme weather, rising sea levels and extinction of species—to the naming of trauma. Or an attempt at naming trauma, caused by humankind, of which we don’t take ownership.
Then, the world changed. Almost overnight.
In the early days of social distancing and staying at home, I found myself comparing this experience to a role-play situation in a pastoral theology or counseling class. The world has shown up and shared an incredible amount of trauma with us. Dropped it in our laps. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, and more, it has the potential to touch everything we know.
We’re not ready and we can’t fix it.
There are scientists working hard to find a vaccine, a cure, an answer. There are doctors and nurses and medical staff on the front lines, risking so much to care for those infected. But for many of us, we feel powerless in this chaos. Committed to staying at home, but grappling with the loneliness, fear and death that we can usually push aside to think about later.
Weeks ago, I wrote the following, referring to what might happen if we took the step of confessing to our corporal sin of being poor stewards of creation:
In confessing to the sin that we have been a part of, we have the opportunity to recognize our own powerlessness. Confessing a thing allows us to stop trying to fix it for a moment and find a deeper understanding of how God is calling us to respond. It allows us to quiet the busy and distracted noise of humanity and truly listen to the cry of creation. It allows us to return to our dependence and our rootedness in God. It allows us to rediscover the thing for which we were made.
There is a strange irony in reading these words now. I almost laugh at the person who wrote them in late February. Now, each of these sentences speaks in an even deeper way to the new reality, the ‘new normal.’ In theory, these are words that sound noble, grounded and deeply spiritual. In practice, I’m not sure I feel ready.
I don’t feel ready to work through my feelings of powerlessness. I don’t feel ready to stop trying to fix things or make it better. I’m not ready for the cry that all of creation is calling out, reminding us that we are deeply connected. I’m not ready to face the hurt, the shame, the injustice and the death that is here and will surely rise in the weeks and months to come. I’m not sure I’m ready for all of it.
I can’t help wondering if this feeling of unreadiness is at all similar to how the disciples felt during the first Holy Week. Jesus told them he would not always be with them. Jesus revealed that times would be difficult. Jesus encouraged them to grapple with the ways they lived their lives and the interconnectedness of God’s creation. And they weren’t ready.
Our leg up on the disciples is that we have the advantage of living in a post-resurrection world. We know of the hope that comes from an empty tomb or the revelation on the road to Emmaus. We know that God comes to us in times that we are not ready. Ever-present and ever-ready, God waits on our invitation to enter into the hard parts with us.
One of the hardest parts for me during this time has been the inability to physically be with people. Without that, I find a longing for relationship. I feel so ready to shake hands, give hugs and be near those I care about once this whole mess is over. Perhaps, on a very small level, I can glean a better understanding of God in this. God is always ready to be in relationship with me. God’s readiness for my unreadiness surpasses everything.
During that first Holy Week, it was in the midst of the greatest unreadiness and grief that the greatest mysteries occurred. In these holy times, where are we not feeling ready and how can we invite God to be with us there?
How will God’s presence with us in the midst of disruption and chaos help us to learn more about God’s desire to be in relationship with us?
Sarah Diener-Schlitt is a Junior MDiv student, from the Diocese of North Carolina.
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