5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. --Jeremiah 29.5-7
Some months ago, as I went through an incredibly challenging period in my ministry, I found it a struggle to get up in the morning and dig in to whatever was ahead of me that day. I was weighed down with sadness and anger, and uncertainty was a constant companion. My customary energy and creativity were at a low ebb.
Unclear about how to shake all of that, I developed a mentality that helped me get through my days: I’d try simply to show up. That was all I could manage. I’d take a deep breath and get myself together somehow, and do the thing that needed done, as best I could. I began describing this daily effort as “the discipline of showing up.” It felt like an incredibly low bar. But most days I could clear it.
By “showing up” I don’t mean sitting in some heavy fog. I mean showing up with the best self I could muster, finding sufficient heart to bring that day’s bit of work to life, and moving things forward regardless of whether it would make a difference to anyone. Showing up began to mean I would fill the spaces that were open to me to fill, gosh darn it, and then get up and try to do it again the next day.
Even though it was painful. Even though things weren’t the way I wanted them to be.
Last weekend I watched the indomitable Kate McKinnon show up on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, to do her well-loved comedy work. And I watched when—for the second time this fall—she broke character during a “Weekend Update” skit, in which she was playing medical expert Dr. Wenowdis. (Say that name out loud; it’s a play on “we know this.”) I heard her utter the uncertainty that many of us are feeling right now, on the cusp of a vaccine that feels like a boon and also a conundrum:
“It's just like the light at the end of the tunnel has showed us how stinky and bad the tunnel is. It's like, how will the vaccine get to everybody? We don't know dis. Will we have enough? We don't know dis. Will life ever really go back to normal? Dis, we do not know dis. What we do know for certain…— no, we don't know nothing.”
McKinnon pulled herself together and ended the skit in character, and did her part to evoke more laughs later in the show. That glimpse, though, of feelings so real right now? It reminded me that McKinnon—and many of us—are barely managing to keep showing up right now. For good reason.