I read an article this week about people who make videos on TikTok to show or talk about the weird quality of our memories of early 2020. People reminisce, through songs, or video clips, or just talking about aspects of those early pandemic days- sourdough starters and that Netflix show Tiger King and going outside to clap at 7pm. People reflected in the comments on how these memories make them feel- things like, “What is this weird combination of joy and horror that I’m feeling?” or “Why does this make me feel nostalgic and like I have PTSD at the same time?”
The author speculated that it was natural for these weird feelings of nostalgia to crop up for us. We are in a time of such deep pandemic fatigue, when things are better in some ways and worse in others, when the complexity of our circumstances feels so much more profound than it did then. March 2020 feels like a simpler and happier time, to some people, in some ways. It’s natural to need to process all that in some way, even if it’s through TikTok videos about baking the mail.
The author summed it all up by saying “While nostalgia may be an effective crutch for the time being, it alone may not lead to the meaningful, lasting healing that people crave.”
Meaningful, lasting healing. That phrase drew me in, provoked a reaction in me, and made me reflect a bit, especially as I considered the Epiphany this week. Because, first of all, after such a long time of being in survival mode, and of watching so many parts of the world around us unravel, I AM hungry for a vision for meaningful, lasting healing, for a bright star in the sky to guide us, right now, toward healing and new life.
But there’s a part of me that gets upset when I try to manufacture healing and meaning. At times of loss and grief, when we’re sitting in the ashes of what used to be, trying to cheerfully tell us to look at the bright side or to just focus on the future can be infuriating. My anger says, “How dare you try to make me learn something from this, or try to make meaning from it- I wish this loss hadn’t happened, it’s bad that this loss happened, and I’m not going to try to make something good from it.” I think that voice is worth honoring, that it is trying to keep us from moving too quickly to paper over a loss that is real, that is worth noticing. I remember a moment a few months ago when I was meeting on Zoom with some of the older grandmother types at my old church- just a regular meeting. And I was just overcome by the sadness that they never held my baby, and that they never would hold him- he wasn’t a baby anymore, and all of his time as a baby had been spent in quarantine, not being loved in a church. That potential future that I wanted for him, 2 years ago, when he was about to be born- it didn’t’ come to be. Of course, I’m grateful for many things- but it’s still very sad, and it reminds me of things that are sadder, the bigger losses that I and others have faced. The smallest things can put us in touch with the enormity of what we’ve lost. And I don’t want to be the kind of person that pretends that loss like that isn’t worth noting and worth grieving.
We have lost a lot in the last two years. Beloved people have died. We have lost health. We’ve missed milestones and celebrations that we thought would be postponed just for a few weeks, and then months, and now we know we won’t really get back in the same way. We have lost a sense of security, a sense of the reliability of the institutions that we often took for granted. We have also, many of us, grown in our knowledge of pain that was hidden from us before or that was easier to ignore before- reckoning with racial injustice and economic inequality in new ways that can be overwhelming and difficult.
And I know that here in this community, there are more losses, that go back even more years, before the pandemic, and that this moment of transition, with a new rector, is bringing those losses to the forefront, even as we celebrate a new beginning.
In the face of so much loss, we can be tempted by a lot of things. We can despair. We can try to avoid and ignore the loss, or pretend it doesn’t matter as much as it really does. We can try to escape into nostalgia, or into a false belief that our losses haven’t changed us, and that things will go back to how they used to be very soon.
Sometimes we need those crutches for a little while, and that’s okay. But I think all of them, eventually, block us from encountering the healing power of God, a God who doesn’t run away from loss, but who joins us in it, and who comes to heal us in this broken world, in our heartbreak.
And so I wonder what it means for us to be a people who believe in a God of healing, as we live in this time of so much loss, so much heartbreak. I wonder what it means for us to participate in God’s work of healing, healing for ourselves, healing for our neighbors, healing for our world.
As I’ve meditated on this season after the Epiphany, these weeks before Lent, when we have a chance to learn with the disciples in these stories about who Jesus is and what he came here to do, and what that means for us as the disciples he is calling today, I’ve been drawn again and again to this theme of healing. Deep healing, healing based on truth, healing that acknowledges loss but that doesn’t end there either. Healing that trusts that Jesus is present with us in grief and pain and has something to offer us in that. And so I invite you to explore that theme of healing with me, during these next 6 weeks or so as we go through this season.
As we pray, as we reflect together on the stories of disciples coming to know Jesus, as we live in the world of loss and heartbreak, perhaps we can consider what we already know of Jesus’ healing love and care from our lives. Perhaps there is a kind of healing Jesus might be trying to offer each of us, and perhaps there is a kind of healing that each of us might want to ask him for. I hope that theme can be one that we explore together, too, as a congregation, in the weeks to come.