My friend Rena is driving down from Wyoming today just to hang out with us as much as she can while this pandemic rages around us. We’ll have lunch in the yard — the temperature is supposed to get up to almost 60. We’ll share a meal delivered, contactless, by a favorite restaurant. We won’t touch, and that will be very hard.
She is coming because our dear friend Rita has died. We don’t know when the funeral will be, if there will be a funeral, but we know we have each other. We can share stories and have a feast in Rita’s honor. We’ll remember and grieve.
Rena has lost too many people in this pandemic time. Her mother, her son, and a favorite cousin have all died — and now Rita. She is deep in her grief, living through that excruciating time of numbness, sadness and anger. She needs to cry — we all do.
We’re all grieving. It’s been a rough year, a really rough year. So many people have died. So many more are very sick. Millions of people have lost jobs and homes. We’re isolated and afraid. Our world is changing — we are changing — and nothing will be going back to how it was before.
It is into this mess that the cry goes out, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight.” It is into this disaster that God will once more come, incarnating in helpless human flesh. Welong for God to be big — powerful. We want God to wipe out this pandemic and end all this suffering. We want vengeance upon the “bad guys”, though we are in complete disagreement as to who they might be. We want answers, and we want ease. But all we have to look forward to is another crying baby, one more helpless being to try to keep alive, fed and clothed — and safe.
Yes, as ministers, chaplains, spiritual directors, helpers, we want the hills laid low and the valleys lifted up; we don’t want a helpless infant. We have compassion fatigue, and we are beset by covidiocy. We’re shell shocked. Truth be told, WE’RE helpless. We’re helpless entirely.
And with that realization the crux of the matter comes into focus. Helplessness is God’s incarnation, just as it is our own. The closer we are to a helplessness that has no answers whatsoever, the closer we are to the new understanding that is the Christ in the world. So perhaps we need to prepare the way for God in silence and in weeping. Maybe we don’t need to have the right words for people who are suffering. Maybe words aren’t where it’s at at all.
Rena is coming some 350 miles today just to sit with us in helplessness. We’ll feed her Chinese food out on the lawn, and hopefully the wind won’t kick up. The geese are flying over quite frequently these days, so we’ll be able to watch their white bodies and dark wings and hear their plaintive calls. And we are noticing that we can read expressions quite well even with masks on, just from one another’s eyes.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer, writer and spiritual director living in Fort Collins, Colorado.