No More Helpin
I’ve about had it with people trying to help me through this “unprecedented time.”
I first felt this way in March and April of 2020, when it seemed like every other e-mail was trying to describe the heavy impact of the pandemic, or to help me through its ravages. I was invited to sign up for webinars that would offer mental health support, and others designed for clergy like me who were trying to adapt to the new online world, and to every other changed aspect of ministry.
I went to a lot of them, especially at first. (What else did I have to do?!) They were led by earnest people, sharing their recommendations of what I ought to be doing, to be well and to lead my church well. My to-do list got longer.
And then there were the Zoom meetings where we spent more time checking in with each other than we did on the purpose of the meeting. Don’t get me wrong; I believe in having people we check in with. But hearing the unique toll the pandemic was taking on close friends and loose acquaintances, multiple times a week—that felt like a lot.
Those “helps” began to add more stress than they alleviated. Each of them reminded me how hard everything was—harder than I knew, even! When the local TV station would run their “We’re in this together” public service ad, showing people somehow getting through, I’d find myself in tears, pulled out of the fragile equilibrium I had reached that day.
Strangely, in what we hope are the waning days of this global health crisis, it seems like that history is repeating itself. It turns out that coming out of a pandemic raises a whole new set of questions, stresses, and solutions proffered by well-intentioned “helpers.” I’ve been drawn in more often in the last six weeks than in the previous nine months. And it is, once again, exhausting.
So, friends, I’m here to assure you that I have nothing for you. No answers. No practices. No webinars to put on your calendar. No ministry tips that you should implement. You’ve got this. Well, with God’s help, you’ve got this.
I’ll leave you with a song. If I were with you, I’d sing it to you! Not even a whole song. A few lines. And they’d be good any time—so don’t count them as a reminder of anything other than God’s invitation, day in and day out.
Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.*
Be well, all you.
*Words by John Greenleaf Whittier, 1872, reprinted in The United Methodist Hymnal (1989), 358.