Click the arrow to hear me read this post. First published in May of 2019, this post recounts a message I heard the last time I visited my daughter’s church in Boston. Though I haven’t been able to visit in almost two years, I know that throughout the pandemic, they have been elbow-deep, putting their […] […]Re-member, a Re-visit — Next Chapter — Next Chapter
I lost my sense of humor this week. I found myself walking around with a scowl on my face, side-eying the dog, and unintentionally snapping at my husband.
I can’t trace it back to any moment, any inciting event, or any offense.
Instead, the funk descended on me, as the sunny skies of last weekend turned gray and then started spitting — rain, then hail, then snow. My facial expressions tightened, my tone darkened, and my sensitivities heightened.
Maybe you’re feeling like this, too. We’ve been sheltering at home for a million days, the death toll keeps climbing, and we don’t know when this will end.
Maybe you’ve got other stuff going on in addition to dealing with a pandemic.
Maybe, like me, you’ve got family members who are aging or have health issues, and you feel the weight of not being able to take an active role in caring for them right now.
Maybe, like me, you now know one or two or more people who have contracted the virus, or worse, some who have died. The whole earth is practically groaning with the deaths of over 114,000 from coronavirus let alone all the deaths from other causes in recent weeks.
And if all that wasn’t enough, it’s Holy Week and we can’t be with our people.
I tried to “make the best of it” when we participated in the livecast of our congregation’s Palm Sunday worship service last Sunday. We ‘joined’ our small group on Facebook messenger video chat while we live-streamed the service; then we ‘stuck around’ after church for coffee hour with our friends. It was great to see everyone; it really was. We truly are making the best of a bad situation. Still, I want to be at church. I want to hear the babies crying and the papers rustling. I want to gather in a circle for the bread and the wine. I want to hear the voices of the communion of the saints singing “Hosannah!”
But not this year.
I felt deflated on Thursday afternoon as we prepared to virtually share our Seder meal with our community group. It would be different, too, this year — with each family scavenging their homes for whatever they might use to represent lamb, charoset, parsley, and horseradish. We’d hear the story of the Passover, asking “why is this night unlike any other”, and remind ourselves that “it would have been enough,” but somehow, it doesn’t feel like enough.
And then on Good Friday, I paused from work at lunchtime and sat on my couch to hear music come through our television and to listen to the story of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and burial.
I couldn’t stay through the end — the stripping of the altar, the darkening of the room, the closing of the tomb — because I had to sign back in to work, to meet a student, to put on a smile and behave as though everything is as it should be.
But it’s not. Not this year.
I’ve been trying to shake this funk — I’ve been exercising, eating right, practicing yoga, and getting outside whenever I can. I roasted a turkey breast and shared bits with my husband and our dog while I sliced it for dinner, and still I was left feeling weighed down, irked, and out of sorts.
I don’t typically give up easily, so even on Saturday, I crawled out of bed, did my morning routine, finished a couple housekeeping tasks, and threw on some clothes. The sun had come out, and I felt a spring in my step as I ventured out to the grocery store clad in mask and gloves, got the few items we needed this week, brought them home, cleaned them, and put them away. I took an extra long walk, ate a delicious turkey sandwich, soaked in the tub, and read a good book. I was doing all the self care that would shift this mind, this heart, this attitude.
Since I had a block of time, I decided to make some progress on the medical masks I’ve been sewing for a local hospital. I had several prepped for sewing, it shouldn’t take long to zip them through the machine and finish this batch so they could be delivered. I had everything running smoothly and was beginning to move efficiently, when all of a sudden, ‘clunk’, my needle broke. I didn’t have a spare, so I checked online to see if I could pick one up from JoAnn’s or Target, but no, not when everyone in the world has turned to sewing projects and every store is open only for limited hours. So, I tossed a few packs of needles in my online shopping cart, clicked ‘purchase’, turned off my sewing machine, tidied my area, and walked away.
This morning I woke up — Easter morning. Not a jelly bean in the house, not one egg hidden, and no reason to put on a dress.
I started by doing what I do every morning, reading my Bible reading plan, writing three pages, practicing yoga, and taking a shower.
My husband handed me breakfast as we walked to our living room sanctuary and turned on our church’s Easter service. We sang a few songs, and I confessed to my husband that I wasn’t feeling it. I was still in a funk.
And as though he knew, our pastor started by saying that while some of us were excited by the resurrection, others of us “can’t shake the uneasiness, the ‘not-at-homeness,'” of this season — the coronavirus season.
I leaned in. You mean I’m not alone? I want to be excited — even Easter-level excited — but I can’t seem to shake this funk.
And as though just the two of us where having a conversation, the pastor replied, “You may be tempted to look at this situation through the lens of common experience, but God is at work.”
This is not a common experience. We don’t have a frame of reference for life during a pandemic, but we can trust that God is at work.
Our pastor said that we might feel like the disciples did when they went home on Friday, knowing that their friend, their leader, their Messiah lay dead in a tomb. They must have felt shaken, uncertain of their future, and a little light on hope.
So when they heard the stone was rolled away, they were surprised — even though Jesus had told them He would rise, even though they knew He was the Messiah. They had gotten lost in their grief for a bit — they had forgotten that while they could not see Him, Jesus was still at work.
And He’s at work right now — He is always at work to heal and restore all things. Even right now. Even during a pandemic. Even when I can’t shake this funk.
Our pastor ended by saying this:
It may seem like the coronavirus has ruined Easter, but Easter has ruined the coronavirus.
It may seem like death has ruined Easter, but Easter has ruined death.
It may seem like sin has ruined Easter, but Easter has ruined sin.
It may seem like this funk has ruined Easter, but Easter is right now ruining my funk.
“Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free!
“Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me!
“You have broken every chain; there’s salvation in your name!
“Jesus Christ, my living Hope!”
**After the worship service, we chatted with our community group during our virtual coffee hour. We went for a walk, then I spent some time here processing my grief, my disappointment, and my hope. Then, as we spent our afternoon videoconferencing with our siblings and our children, I could feel the funk lift a bit. We laughed, we smiled, and we believed that God is indeed at work.
***I will link Pastor Gabe’s sermon here, in case you, too, need a little lifting of your funk.
On Monday I wrote about sexual assault; today I’m revisiting a post I wrote last Easter. Although the prevalence of sexual assault in our culture angers me, I believe that God is always working to restore us, and it is within our power to partner with Him in restoration work.
Is it weird that Easter falls in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month?
Is it strange that during Holy Week my husband and I joined a couple dozen students to watch I am Evidence, a film about sexual assault and the disturbing backlog of unprocessed rape kits in our country?
Is it inappropriate that on our drive home from our family celebration of Easter we discussed sexual assault and the impact it has had on our society in general and our family specifically?
No. Nope. Not at all.
It’s not even a juxtaposition. No amount of jelly beans or bunnies can hide the fact that Easter came at the end of a week full of assault.
The crucifixion was the culmination of several days worth of violence, degradation, and abhorrent human behavior. Masses of people jeered and swore at Jesus, threw rocks at him, and called for his execution. Guards whipped and beat him within an inch of his life. He hung naked on a cross for an entire day while onlookers mocked him, guards poked at him, and the people who loved him bore witness.
While we have no evidence that Jesus was sexually assaulted, he was certainly exposed, humiliated, and brutally killed in front of a complicit crowd. So if I follow Holy Week with a post about sexual assault, it shouldn’t come as a shock.
Sexual assault and its impact are all around us. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center claims that “one in three women and one in six men experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.” And, because it is the most under-reported crime (63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police), you likely interact daily with people who have been impacted by sexual violence, even if you are unaware. Of the sexual assaults that actually are reported, very few are prosecuted. According to RAINN, “of 1000 rapes, 995 perpetrators walk free.”
Why am I telling you this? Because it’s important. Because a culture that allows this to happen won’t change without a concerted effort by all of us.
It’s kind of like caring for the environment — to preserve and protect the Earth and reverse some of the damage caused by decades of neglect, many must take intentional action. If only a few people in every community choose to share rides and limit their use of plastics and electricity, we won’t see great change. To truly transform our planet, many will have to take small steps every day — carry cloth bags to the grocery store, recycle or reuse containers, reduce consumer waste, and bike instead of drive.
In the same way, we all have to work together to reduce the prevalence of sexual assault in our country. If we ignore this enormous problem, it will not go away. It’s going to take a commitment to intentional action.
Some might choose to get involved in big ways by volunteering to work on rape kit processing projects in major cities across America, by creating safe houses for victims of sexual violence, or by developing preventative programs that promote emotional health among young people. But you don’t have to do big things to make a big difference. If each of us practiced small things every day, we would begin to shift a culture that allows a third of our girls and women and 17% of our boys and men to be assaulted.
What if we all decided not to listen to or tell sexual jokes? Or what if we called out our friends who make lewd or inappropriate comments? What if we turned off television shows, movies, or music that glamorize sexual violence? What if we kept our eyes open, paid attention, and noticed when people look afraid or uncomfortable? What if we asked complete strangers, “Are you ok? Do you need help?” What if we gave money to agencies that help victims of sexual crimes or to college campuses to fund sexual assault awareness programs? What if we simply voted only for leaders who had a zero tolerance for the sexual mistreatment of anyone and had never been implicated in sexual crimes?
If one or two people made one small change, they would have a small impact — they might stop one or two rapes, and that would matter. If many of us decided together that we would take small actions each day to shift our culture toward one that values and respects all people, we might stop 10 or 100 or 1000 sexual assaults.
In America, where every two minutes a woman is raped, we cannot look away.
As Jesus hung naked, exposed, in front of all who loved him and many who hated Him, He took action. He asked John to care for his mother, Mary. He reached out to the thief on the cross next to Him and had mercy. He didn’t wait until another day — He cared and had mercy right then. He was, in His suffering and humiliation, rescuing us all.
We were desperate for help, and He came to our rescue.
He didn’t look away.
How do we rescue victims of sexual assault? I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few ideas.
We can start by acknowledging that victims of sexual assault are in the room. Every room. Knowing that, we can choose words and actions that are tender — that avoid insensitive or triggering language. We can refrain from coarse joking and innuendo.
Next, we can believe victims of sexual assault — without qualification, without asking where they were, what they were doing, what they were wearing, if they’d been drinking. We can believe them. Period.
We can sit on juries, listen to evidence, and put people who hurt others in prison; we can give them consequences for their crimes and prevent them from hurting anyone else.
I Am Evidence follows the story of thousands of rape kits that are currently being processed in cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, and Cleveland. As more and more DNA is entered into CODIS, prosecutors are finding trails of repeat offenders who could have been stopped years ago if 1) rape kits had been processed, and 2) victims had been believed.
Women who endured the secondary trauma of submitting to rape kit examinations have been waiting years for justice. For closure. For the assurance that those who harmed them can never harm them again.
How can we look away?
We can see victims. We can believe victims. We can prosecute perpetrators, and we can insist that our criminal justice system does a better job. To ensure that it can, we need to provide the needed resources — an adequate budget, plenty of staff, and our support.
We can do these things. These small things. Because they are big things.
On Friday, Jesus was in excruciating pain. His death was long and slow, and when it was finished, his friends wrapped him in cloths and carried him to a cave. They rolled a stone in front of the opening so that no more harm could come to his body, and they went home grieving.
Is it within our power to act so that no more harm will come to the bodies of victims of sexual assault? Can we acknowledge the pain that they have suffered and sit with them in their grief?
On Sunday morning, they went to the cave and found the giant stone rolled away. Inside stood Jesus, resurrected, transformed, made whole.
Each year over 320,000 lives are brutally injured by sexual assault. Millions of lives are longing to be resurrected, transformed, made whole.
He has the power to heal the sick and raise the dead.
We have the power to do small things each day to aid in this healing.
We cannot look away.
Death is all around us“The Dust” Kip Fox
We are not afraid
Written is the story
Empty is the grave