Abiding in Exile - Discombobulation 09/16/21

Abiding in Exile - Discombobulation 09/16/21

September 16, 2021

By: Nan Smith

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14: 27 NRSV

So, I am now the proud owner of a three-month-old golden retriever puppy.  He is filled with energy and a fascination with the newness of the world that is around him.  Because of him, I am once again becoming acquainted with the wonders of seeing the day break. He carries such a sense of anticipation and expectancy, greeting each day with such delight. 

There is much to be learned from this puppy!

However, probably more to the point of this article is the number of people who have asked me “why now?”  Why get a puppy when you already have so much on your plate?  Of course, they are right in that there is much on all of our plates as this pandemic endures, as the fear continues, as the divisions grow more pronounced, and what will be our future remains to be seen. All of that has weighed heavy on me and I need some balance to the angst I am carrying.  Frankly, I need to laugh more – really laugh.  So, in answer to their question of “why now,” I am quick to say “why not?”  

Of course, puppies bring their own host of problems. They try your patience, they chew everything, they retrieve anything, they eat whatever, and overall, they are just plain exhausting. But they have a persistence and a love that has the ability to break through any of those lethargic feelings that have been creeping into life more and more.  I need this puppy, as much as he needs me. 

Anymore as this pandemic continues, I am finding that people’s patience is wearing thin.  Their irritability is close to the surface and erupts easily.  More and more I am seeing people with a general apathy for doing much of anything, much less things related to the church.  Listening to others, I hear the deep longing for things to return to normal and the deep resignation to the understanding that the world is now very different and that this will be our new normal.   

That tension can leave us with a feeling of disequilibrium, a term coined by educational psychologist, Jean Piaget.  It is the state that occurs when there is dissonance between what is understood and what is encountered or what is expected and what is experienced.  It leaves a person with a vague or intense sense of unsettledness or what I like to call discombobulation.  It is not a comfortable feeling.  

Perhaps you are feeling what I am describing here.

Unfortunately, with so much up in the air, I’m afraid that feeling is not likely to go away anytime soon.  All of which is to say that there is a lot of angst in the system that spills out into our personal lives, jobs, churches, schools, and communities. 
I do wish I had some gem of wisdom to offer, but all I really have is that we are going to have to ride this thing out and see where it takes us and readjust at that point. I realize that isn’t exactly encouraging, but as people of faith we can be encouraged knowing that we are not riding this out all by our lonesome.  There is much comfort and hope knowing that Christ goes with us.

For the time being, when things overwhelm me, I spend time with my puppy.  In fact, my puppy time has also become part of my prayer time.  He has this persistent way of keeping me in the moment and showing me that God’s presence is with me in the simple and the ordinary. 

My puppy’s full name is Copper Pennies from Heaven.  It seems so very fitting.

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