A couple of days ago, I sat down to a bowl of nachos and a flat white coffee at my local café. Why? Well, I needed some space and comfort food to debrief the past year, and to think and pray about the year ahead.
It is hard to describe last year in terms that do justice to the complex and varied experiences we had. Some people say that it hasn’t affected them much, others describe it as a dumpster fire or the worst year they have had in their life. How do I see it? Well as I was journaling and praying with my nachos, I decided it was hard to know what to think.
There were triumphs, there were lows and there were things we had no control over. I think it is true to say that I had expectations about where we were going and what we were doing before COVID, and so having to let go of what we had planned, or had achieved, was hard. For example, everyone had been doing a great job building a wonderful and welcoming community after Church on a Sunday, but because of COVID, it could no longer go ahead as before. Then there was the huge challenge we faced having to reinvent our delivery of Church, and work out how we could deliver an effective online product, in a consistent way. It was exhausting. It was also heart wrenching at times to see those who weren’t able to see loved ones in the last days of their lives.
However, as I said before, there were also triumphs – such as the online services, due to the very hard work of our team. And there were glimpses of humanity at its best, with people looking after one another, plus the understanding and caring attitude of our Church community, which I experienced personally as we worked things out.
So, what did I notice as I was debriefing all of this? Well God gave me one word as I was praying, and that word was ‘compassion’. And, as I was journaling, the words ‘refresh and prepare’ stood out.
As I unpacked these, I came to this understanding:
Firstly, compassion is care and love in action – for others and for myself. As I head into this new year, I need to understand that we all have limits and need care, as most of us experienced an extra level of hardship last year. So, I understand that I need to take my time when I think about my expectations of myself and others, and be kind.
Secondly, as for ‘refresh and prepare’, I became acutely aware that I needed to refresh my soul and spirit, because it is possible to wear down the spiritual energy that allows us to keep going and protects the emotional tank we have to cope with the unexpected. My guess is that a lot of people have burned this off and refreshing ourselves is going to be something really important to do, as we prepare for the year to come.
After I had finished my flat white and Nachos, I felt better about the year ahead. I felt more centered and ready to go again. Currently, I have these things printed out and on my desk, to make sure I keep them in mind. I’m well aware that COVID didn’t see the end of the year and decide that it’s finished, and so there will be lingering effects for a while to come, but I feel I have a good path to run on, following God’s direction for me.