The road ahead is uncertain. But isn’t it always? The title of a blog post I wrote after a very difficult year has come to the forefront of my thoughts these past days.
The weather on January 20, 2017, the day of the Presidential Inauguration, was foggy, rainy, and overall, depressing and dreary. It struck me then that although the road ahead, literally and figuratively, was unclear, eventually the fog would lift. The seasons teach us this.
Last Thursday, the morning we headed home from a joyous spring break vacation in Wisconsin visiting our daughter and her boyfriend, there was limited visibility on the highway. Like the bathroom mirror steams over from a too-hot shower, a haziness settled on houses and barns, trees and tractors. A dense fog allowed us to see no further than a few hundred feet in front of us. On the side of the road, coffee-colored trees are more visible than trees just several feet behind, muted with the hue of a healthy dose of half-and-half, a church only distinguishable from a house or a barn by its steeple.
Most visible were the white lines along either side of the road, the necessary boundaries to keep us confident about continuing, and the headlights of oncoming cars.
I thought, here we are again: foggy weather and uncertain times. In the last day of our trip as reports of the seriousness of the pandemic gripped the news cycle, the encouragement to thoroughly handwash and to elbow bump instead of handshake turned into urgent messages of social distancing, self-isolation and quarantining to “flatten the curve.”
The road ahead is uncertain. Undeniably.
The opinion articles, podcasts, news updates, inspirational memes, stories of resilience, warnings, and as always, humorous posts—all coronavirus related—fill the newsfeeds on all social media platforms. I know, I know, social media BEWARE! But I stand by my philosophy that everything can be used for good or for evil—and I see a lot of good (sharing some of that below.)
Yes, it’s foggy out there, but the white lines on the side of the road will be our guide, they are the spiritual practices that give us boundaries and direction. The headlights of oncoming cars are the encouraging and inspirational messages of people that look for beauty even during depressing and dreary times. It may be a longer road trip than we are all comfortable with, not knowing what challenges may lie ahead for ourselves, our loved ones, our city, state or country, our future. Please do not misinterpret, I do not preach—in the words of my beloved father-in-law, “I don’t know nothin’” except that the road ahead is uncertain.
I shared in my earlier post, “Embracing this uncertainty feels like the most solid, really the only, response I can have right now. It gives me the opportunity to practice the Benedictine principle of stability of settling into the present moment of feelings and circumstance. This uncertainty is my spiritual teacher; I will learn from this time.”
I close with a few words of wisdom from my school principal. The school I teach at has canceled classes and activities indefinitely. An uncertain road ahead, teachers have so many questions about what our next steps will be to teach remotely. At a staff meeting, he quipped that most of our questions will be answered with “I don’t know.” I appreciate this honesty and transparency. We are in unchartered territory—none of us know when this will end, how effective our remote teaching will be or when we will return to normal classes. He ended a daily email with these words—
Remember . . . Space and Grace!
I LOVE this. We may need to give each other more geographic distance from each other, at least 6 feet of space between us, but now more than ever we must see that we are all on the same road. We need to give each other grace. We must shine our lights so that others can see through the fog of the journey to come.
I encourage you to connect with the two sources listed below as a white line, or a headlight, for the journey:
A Novena is an ancient mystical practice of setting aside daily time for prayer for a specific concern over nine days. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and a time when we are encouraged to self-isolate for the greater good, this is an opportunity to come together virtually, in community and in spirit.
Join Christine Valters Painter, an author I often quote in posts and retreats, for a 9-Day Online Journey Together (for free or by donation.) The novena started today, March 17 and was awesome!! But it’s not too late to start—each meditation will be recorded so that you can participate when it works for you. The daily themes are:
Encircling Prayer | Who can I call in for protection?
Silence | How might I listen to a deeper voice?
Peregrinatio | How do I stay present in the midst of unknowing and discomfort?
Humility | How do I embrace vulnerability?
Nature’s Wisdom | What can wilderness teach me?
Simplicity | What is most essential?
Gratitude | What are the gifts right now?
Compassion | Who can I reach out to?
Wonder | Where can I find delight and awe?
Prayer for a Pandemic
I was very touched by this selfless prayer that was shared by Cameron Bellm known online as Krug the Thinker, a mother and contemplative living in Seattle.
Prayer for a Pandemic
By Cameron Bellm
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.