The Pandemic Social Isolation is an opportunity for us to define ourselves in the most authentic way.
Years ago, at my very first meeting with a spiritual advisor, I was asked to introduce myself. I was quick to tell him my current endeavours and my previous projects. My spiritual advisor was patient. After listening to me rambling on, he reminded me that projects and work do not define us, but relationships do. He was talking about my relationships with others and my relationship with God.
Due to the pandemic in recent weeks, many people in the world are either laid off or lost their job. In-person meetings, conferences, arts performances and projects are cancelled, rescheduled, or on hold. Suddenly, people’s occupation and project titles became meaningless. It is obvious that we can no longer define ourselves according to our projects and work. To practice social distancing, many grandparents cannot meet with their grandchildren. Good friends who used to hang out every day cannot meet for a drink to vent after cooping up in the house all day. For those who are inept in using technology to communicate with others, social distancing puts a damper on personal relationships. It seems that what is left to define oneself is simply our own relationship with God.
I wonder if this is the time that we are supposed to focus on our personal relationship with God. Perhaps, we can now spend the time to reflect on who God is for each of us personally, and get to know who we are to God. Surely, it’s Holy Week right now and that’s what we are supposed to do. With the fear and anxiety that accompanies the pandemic, I am sure many of us are also praying, communicating to God more often than usual. However, maybe we have forgotten our own identity and really need to introduce ourselves once more in the most authentic way, and not base our identities on something that will not last, like our work or projects, or relationship with mortals. We need to see ourselves through our own personal relationship with God. If you were asked of who God is for you, can you describe that at this very moment? If not, let just say that self-isolating and social distancing is perfect for a retreat and a reflection.
It was such a blessing to hear one sermon this Christmas season while visiting a Lutheran church. The pastor mentioned how he sent gifts to his staff as a “Thank You” for their service. They are really gifts of gratitude. Within the family, he talked about getting gifts from Santa, whom we all know keep a good list and a bad list. So, the gifts from Santa are gifts of rewards. Now, when God sent his Son among us, that’s a kind of gift that is extraordinary. That is a gift to each of us, whether we deserve it or not!
It got me thinking: What’s a good gift? You know, the kind that totally says we understand what it means to be the baptized.
This is the season when we send our well wishes to others and have family obligations, reunions of sorts. Perhaps, a good gift will be to treat family and friends in the kindest way we possibly can, even when they do not deserve it. Perhaps, we are reluctant to send out Christmas and New Year wishes to people who gave us no acknowledgement for such kindness for the last five years. Then, we all have that arrogant relative, that one member who criticizes everything, that snobbish uncle or cousin, whom we have to sit with at the same dinner table. Other opinionated friends might get on our nerves. Certain family members might have memory problems who test our patience. Just remember: We can do better than Santa! God gave us a gift, whether we deserved it or not! Let’s pass on that gift!
Wishing you a Blessed Christmas Season and a Happy New Year!
This aria by Handel has been ringing in my ears for over two weeks now. It started when a musician friend needed consolation and I was lost for words. At the time, the first piece of music that came to mind which I thought would bring him some peace was “O Rest in the Lord” from Handel’s oratorio Elijah, with the words from Psalm 37. So, I sent him a YouTube link as a reply to his misery. Instantly, the melody became my earworm. After that, in the days following, I kept receiving bad news of one thing or another, crisis after crisis. Many days, my heart was just grieving and feeling hopeless. Somehow, God showed his presence on two separate unrelated occasions within the last week, once at my voice teacher’s studio and once at a bi-monthly musicians’ get-together. “O rest in the Lord” is not a rare piece. Still, the coincidence of me hearing it sung live twice in a week is exceptional. (The last time I heard it live prior to this week must have been over 10 years ago!) Now, the music did not make the sadness or worries go away, but I do feel God’s presence and comfort in this difficult time.