“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind” – Romans 12:2
Recently, Pastor Mary interviewed Bobby and Elaine. Elaine is the daughter of Ruth Chang. Bobby and Elaine are missionaries who serve as pastors to the pastors in the countries they move between. They train local pastors and other missionaries in country. They support and guide those who are leading the local church.
As a part of their conversation with Pastor Mary, they spoke about the need for self-care, the dangers of burnout, and how these things are linked to identity. Bobby stressed the need to begin by truly understanding and owning our identity as children of God. The epistles are filled with such language. One could say that the story of creation in Genesis also affirms this truth. The Anglican Bishop Rowan Williams says, “the shaping of a sense of self is a narrative business.” The stories we tell ourselves shape who we are.
As I listened to Bobby and Elaine’s interview and remembered Bishop Williams quote, I thought about who I have been during the pandemic at Central Union.
In March case counts and hospitalization rates were super low, vaccination rates were high and everything was moving in the right direction. We were excited about plans to open up more, with Sunday school, congregational singing, additional services, and more programs on campus. Of course, adding back these services and programs, while exciting, also brought a significant amount of decisions, planning, coordinating, and communicating.
I was raised to believe that when there was a lot to be done, you rolled up your sleeves and went to work. I liked to tell myself the story that I am a person who gets the job done. Sometimes I need to burn the candle at both ends but sacrifices must be made to finish the task.
As case counts have rapidly climbed and hospitalization rates have begun to creep up, more questions are being asked. Should we continue to reopen? Do we need to wait or even take a step back? We have all heard, or felt, or vocalized a weariness with masks and safety protocols. I get messages from some who are pushing that we open up more and do away with safety procedures and from others who want us to move back to a time of greater restrictions.
Caught in between my mind says, work harder (roll up those sleeves past the shoulders). I tend to go into double down mode where I simply think I can work my way out of a difficult situation, but right now in this time and in this situation, this default way of thinking isn’t helping. I have to admit, I’m exhausted (FYI, I am currently battling COVID so that is definitely part of the reason why I’m tired). At this point I being to wonder, is there a different narrative I need to remind myself of? Is there a different story I need to hear and internalize? “When the going gets tough the tough gets going” sure sounds like the world’s narrative. What could it look like in this case to “conform not to the patterns of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind”?
I need a different way of thinking. I need a renewal of the mind. And I don’t think I am alone. We need the Holy Spirit to show us a better way. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and follow the lead of the early church’s simple prayer, “Come Holy Spirit, come.”