I thought I would share two thoughts that I had this morning about the challenges of community in a time a crisis. I realize there is so much to read and think about right now, so I am grateful for you pondering this with me. Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.
- In my experience, one of the most neglected practices of healthy community in the Christian church (and in middle-class America) is asking for help, crisis or not. I could spill out my guts here on why I believe this happens, but rather than making a case for it, let me simply encourage you, in this time of crisis, it’s very important that you take the time to clearly (or not clearly) say what you need. Admit when you need assistance. Remember that the care-givers around you, while they want to help you, they are not mind-readers. It’s very important that you take responsibility for whatever circumstance you find yourself. This requires humility and perhaps a new level of personal vulnerability, but it’s vital to getting through crisis safely. The “unmanageability of life” is often our reality long before we are willing to admit it. There is a reason why the first of the “12-Steps” begins with “We admitted we were powerless over…” Rather than saying what we need we often get stuck in a downward spiral of shame and guilt (really it’s “neediness”) trying to find ways to self-preserve. Now I realize that there are all sorts of systemic challenges and barriers that may be in the way owning our neediness, but for now, I invite you to hear and receive my encouragement, in this time of national and local crisis – Let’s move toward trusting God and each other enough to say what we need.
- On the other side of the community coin are those who take on the noble and merciful role of care-giver. It’s truly an inspiration to see so many people thinking and acting creatively to care for those in need, the vulnerable, those “at-risk.” I have loved the challenges for personal ministry (not just business) to happen via video, grocery shop for the elderly, donate food for school lunch programs, and just general loving of neighbor. This morning I read a challenge from a friend to buy restaurant gift certificates online as a sort of payday advance for restaurant and café owners as their business comes to a grinding halt. There are so many incredibly inspiring and creative ideas. One thing that I realize about myself and many others who are in care-giving roles (pastors, ministry leaders, counselors, medical professionals, etc.), is that these ideas for love quickly become responsibilities of burden. We can quickly take on a heroism mentality that neglects our own needs, vulnerabilities, and “at-risk” realities. There are a number of problems with the “hero” approach to crisis (see Chip Dodd), but the most tragic is that in the end, the hero ends up alone, isolated from the community. This isolation leads to a whole host of deep and troubling soul realities. So, for all you leaders out there who are being pulled in the direction of “responsible heroism” PLEASE honor your humanity and admit your limits. Care-givers are people too! May challenge to you is the same one I gave to those “in need” – because, let’s face it, coronavirus is a fresh reminder that it’s a level playing field – Let’s move toward trusting God and our community enough to say what we need.
May God’s peace and comfort be on every side (if you haven’t already be sure to read St. Patrick’s prayer wonderful prayer).