As humans, we have evolved to be wary of change. In a church, you see this all the time. I like to jokingly remind our leaders that if we change brands of toilet paper, someone is liable to leave the church over it.
Welp, this year our theme could be the line from one of our hymns: Don't be afraid of some change. Because whether you were afraid or not, change was here. Time to learn Zoom. And Youtube Premiere. And in non-church life, curbside pickup for everything from dinner to craft supplies.
We changed. We didn't have a choice in the matter. Trust me, if we'd had an actual choice, if the alternative was not literally potential death, we would have held lots of committee meetings, weighed the pros and cons, and decided nope, we were not going to change.
But we did. And now, slowly I hope, because it's the right and healthy and covenantal thing to do ... we will change again. We'll come back to church. Go back to eating dinner inside a restaurant where people put hot plates in front of us and then whisk them away when they're empty. Realize we're out of that one ingredient and run up to the grocery store to grab it.
In some ways, we'll go back to what used to be, but in so many other ways, we can't really go back, and shouldn't. We have learned things. We won't just do things because we've always done them that way, whether it's Thanksgiving at Grandmas, or shaking hands with everyone we meet.
So, again, we are facing change, and doesn't it seem like it's going to take a lot of energy? We may not particularly like our routine now, but after a year, we've gotten it down. It's familiar. And boy, we like familiar. To change now means going back to uncertainty - how will things be different, how will they be the same? We will have to make decisions, choices, again.
In 1816, Lord George Gordon Byron wrote his poem, "Prisoner of Chillon," telling the real-life story of François Bonivard who was imprisoned in the Castle of Chillon for his political activism. Byron imagined himself as Bonivard, telling the tale of despair, and wrote of when men came to set him free: "And thus when they appear'd at last, And all my bonds aside were cast, These heavy walls to me had grown A hermitage—and all my own!"
We have repurposed our homes, making them into offices, daycares, and entertainment venues. We've lived multiple days, never leaving. And we have been shaped by this time. Our relationships have taken on new dimensions through this. In the good moments, it has been a new privilege, to spend so much time with loved ones. In difficult moments, we have learned more about ourselves, and what we need to feel centered and mentally healthy.
Of course, our feelings right now are complicated.
Lord Byron ends the narrative poem with:
We have grown friends with aspects of this lockdown. And it has made us what we now are.
It's okay to sigh.