Skip to main content

Lord Byron and the End of the Pandemic

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 Fran├žois 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: 

My very chains and I grew friends, 
So much a long communion tends 
To make us what we are:—even I 
Regain'd my freedom with a sigh.

We have grown friends with aspects of this lockdown. And it has made us what we now are. 

It's okay to sigh. 


Popular posts from this blog

Don't Trust Your Instincts, or, "Well-Meaning People Can Exacerbate Big Problems"

My evangelical friends talk about being "convicted." That moment when you hear or read a message and like an arrow, it dives into your heart, and you know that you have been guilty, and you have some growing to do. At the very beginning of my learning about Bowen systems theory, the professor was laying out the basic idea: that we all feel anxiety, and when we do, we act (often in unhealthy ways) in order to lessen our anxiety. And in an unhealthy system with emotionally immature people -- a family, a business, a church -- one person's anxiety can trigger the anxiety of others. Here's a great primer on that. Really great. Like, watch it 20 times in a row. Or every morning as you drink your coffee. (I'm not kidding. I think your life would be better. Consider it a spiritual practice.) So back to my conviction moment. The professor went on to talk about how when we see someone who is "vibrating" with anxiety, our instinct is often to rush over,

The Most Controversial Thing I'll Write All Year

Back when you were a kid, you learned a lesson. It was wrong. And it's time for you to unlearn it. You learned that you were responsible for other people's feelings. Not that you should care about other people's feelings. (You should.) Not just that you should be sensitive to other people's feelings. (You should.) But you were taught that you were actually responsible for other people's feelings. It happens in almost all homes, even the loving ones. In abusive homes, it's more blatant. If Dad is unhappy, you get hit. So you learn that it is actually your responsibility to keep him happy, or there would be consequences. But even in non-abusive homes, it happened. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  You are not responsible for other people's feelings. That's their job. And in fact, you are crossing their boundary if you try to control their feelings. They get to decide how they feel about something, not you. They may decide that you

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see. When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes. After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?" In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff. With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying. I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, to