Anatomy of an Exhale
Last March we filed out through church doors and stopped singing together for nearly twelve months. I didn’t realize the ramifications until my own vocal chords staged a mutiny. My devotion burned under my skin waiting to find God, while rocks cried out in my place and these lungs of mine asked at what cost will I keep them silent? This is my reply.
Caution is necessary, and public health is essential for the well-being of society. As I began to digest all the mandates, though, It felt like ALL or NOTHING. Only, If I practiced ALL the guidelines of prevention, then I could keep sickness from spreading. But, If I couldn't execute everything perfectly, I reasoned that it was not going to work, that the inevitable would occur: people, including myself, would get sick anyway. I heard all the reasons, but there was no rhyme. I hurried to consult my own logic, but this led me in circles until, finally, Logic hung up a sign: ‘out of the office’ and we simply gave up on each other.
I know what is right, but I keep wanting to do wrong? If this sounds familiar, It’s called human nature. I didn’t want people to die, but I felt helpless to stop it, so as a result, I quit caring about the rules. Endless loopholes always challenged them anyway and then there were the ‘rule breakers’. If other people couldn’t be controlled by a general standard, then ultimately the outcome seemed predictable--Pandemic would rage on and on, whether I followed the rules or not. Not to mention, the ways that society loves to make it all about politics rather than a health-crisis. Whose right? Whose wrong? We love justification. We love vindication, vengeance-- things seem to spiral out of control when all our energies narrow to satisfy ourselves.
It’s no secret that I have reached the epitome of Covid-fatigue, but as I begin to unravel the knots that threaten to strangle my heart, I realize some of my own faults hiding shamefully in the corner. Bottom line: I was angry at my life being disrupted. Aren’t we all? Isn’t this our natural tendency? We are hard-nosed, bull-headed, and rebellious by nature when it comes to having our way. As a culture/society/nation I believe we mostly act downright entitled. We could argue about this, we could debate the reason for this, but it’s clearly apparent when there is not one moment that is empty of incessant feuding. Everyone wants their own way, but this doesn't make railroading everyone to get it excusable. I need to own my downfalls.
Holding my breath:
So what does this have to do with me singing or not singing or going to church or watching church on T.V. or wearing a mask or not wearing a mask. Here it is: I spent a year of my life being mostly angry and tired, not because I didn’t believe there was a virus, but because I didn’t want to change. Fight and survival mode kicked in aggressively. It was only temporary, right? I can get through a little longer, and a little longer, and then my fevered ambition began turning icy cold, my heart hardened. Stony cold and hard. I seemed to move in sync with this pale season, drained of any hope. I am not sure the day or the hour, or when my body started to feel the poison of despair, but I embraced apathy, held onto the hand of arrogance, even as I blamed others for their arrogance, there I was, cozying up to it. And yet, faith has a steady, abiding presence in the midst of this tale. Thank God for transparency between us. I can’t hide from Him. He will run me down in a heartbeat, because I don’t know how to live without Him. Clinging to his robe, I finally saw myself from the outside. I had let the grief manifest through my anger. It’s toxic and can literally kill you, but my insular, reflective tendencies have a purpose. I hesitate to take anything at face value, and although over-analyzing tends to reap more trouble than I care to admit, I need God to save me from anger. I have watched anger destroy people, I have seen it destroy whole families, It is a vice that will grip insidiously, thrash and ferociously devour.
If you are listening to my words, you may begin to hear the thaw. You might hear the dripping of the ice that formed around my heart. It’s a welcome sound. It’s good to feel my feet on the ground, even if I am on my knees in repentance. It’s wrong to let anger have the last word, even if it was grief that was to blame. Confession drags all of our dirt out into the brilliant, searing light. Rocks become diamonds. Cloudy becomes crystal clear, and empty hands find His own.
It’s not that I couldn’t sing, but I couldn’t worship, because I was angry. I was angry that I couldn’t be with my church family, I was angry that my family got so sick of each other in quarantine that we fought and hurt each other with our words. I was angry that I couldn’t be with extended family. I was angry that we had to keep covering our faces. I was angry that everyone was angry, that the world was broken. But underneath it was grief. Underneath it was my resistance to change, even though I wanted to. Human nature won. I am trying to cut it all loose, wrestling with my humanity, learning to pay attention, learning to name what it is, to call it out and to deal with it. And it feels clean-- like a long exhale.
“Tune my heart to sing Thy grace, Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.”
-Robert Robertson, 1758
When I can sing again in my church I might cry. But not for grief. For joy and gratitude. I realize now that when tears came even as I sang in my car, it was because my heart was broken. I didn’t understand why until recently. Anger had trampled in and left a trail of misery. If anything occurred during this long, laborious year that has caused you grief, keep walking through it with transparency. If it’s anger, write it down, say it, search it, and find a way to chase it out of you, because the cost of anger is far too high of a price to pay.