COVID-19 has revealed much about the human character. It’s also revealed, in my opinion, the things that we suck at as Americans: grief, slowing down, and giving up control.
I have been a pastor for more than fifteen years. During that time, I experienced, presided over, and took part in many funerals. As if all those experiences weren’t enough, losing both of my parents revealed to me just how awkward we can be around death and grief.
I honestly think that one of the reasons why we suck at grief is the fact that we also suck at slowing down. In reality, this trifecta of underachieving is completely connected. We suck at grief because we can’t (or won’t) slow down and we won’t slow down because we can’t give up control.
It seems like a vicious cycle.
Once upon a time, people would take time to grieve. There were days set aside to grieve your loved ones. That’s not to say that grief can be contained to a few hours or days, but at least there was time carved out to grieve.
As we journey through COVID-19 and all of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual repercussions that it is taking on our world, how many of us have taken time to grieve? I mean, really grieve. Have you cried over the things that you’ve lost? It doesn’t matter how great or how small they are, grief is grief and the size of the thing being grieved should have no bearing on the level to which we grieve for it.
I don’t think it’s only that we haven’t grieved, I think it’s that we’ve actually run from grief. We’ve filled our heads with Tiger King or streamed another new show on Netflix. We’ve started new projects that we’ve put off for years. We’ve watched YouTube to finally hone that hidden talent that we’ve known we’ve had but never had the time to invest in it.
I’m not saying that some of those things aren’t good. Sometimes we need to be distracted, but distractions that take us away from the important things in life, even grief, can simply prolong what’s coming.
We don’t slow down well either.
So many people are sharing on social media how much they’ve valued this time of slowing down. Some of us weren’t running at frenetic paces before this all began, so slowing down wasn’t something we needed to be forced to do. In reality, God created an automatic weekly slowdown to help our rhythm when he created the Sabbath, but when’s the last time that you really enjoyed or experienced a Sabbath? I’m not talking about just laying in the hammock and doing nothing, but a real soul-quenching Sabbath that energized you and gave you peace?
Ironically, I think that one group of people who has experienced the antithesis of slowing down during all this is pastors. As I watch my social media feeds scroll past, I see some of them running at unsustainable paces, trying desperately to justify their existence and fill the airwaves with enough content to give a PhD student a headache.
We don’t slow down because speeding up somehow makes us feel like we’re still in control.
I’ve got news for you, you were never really in control to begin with. The illusion of control is not really control, it just makes us think that we’re in control.
There are some areas of our country where “going with the flow” seems to fit them well. There are others where “going with the flow” would be hard if they were strapped to an inner tube rushing towards a waterfall (which this has kind of felt like more days than not).
This time has acted as a microscope of sorts, revealing to us all the hidden things that we were either aware of or not, but that were there waiting to be exposed.
Here’s the good news: this isn’t ending anytime soon. Well, that’s kind of good news. But as states begin to roll out plans for their phased reopenings, I don’t expect that any level of “normalcy” will be reached in the days or weeks ahead.
In other words, we’ve got time to work on these things. Grieve. Slow down. Relinquish control. As they say, practice makes perfect, and I think we’ve got some time to do just that.