befuddled but hopeful

“Befuddled” is the word I might use to describe my new state of being.  Every day is the same, but nothing feels normal.  I miss the sense of progress.  There seems to be less to talk about.  I am tired of talking about Covid. 

The protests and the conversations about racial injustice have brought lots of energy, but lead more to pondering and sadness than to steps of action.  I feel safer than I did, even though the numbers tell me the disease is spreading and hospitalizations are increasing.  But it feels so right to be near people, even if we aren’t hugging.

The phrase I most often hear is “Groundhog Day.”  We can all see Bill Murray waking to his alarm and launching into the all too familiar journey.  And while my daily journey is so much the same, sometimes I feel like it is much more sluggish.  I am doing things but not going anywhere.  It feels empty or boring or just befuddling.  I have never felt this way, never lived this way before.  I don’t like it!

I tell myself that each day is a new opportunity.  Each day brings new conversations and small tasks.  Each day is a chance to pray and study and even love those I get to see.

I tell myself that this day is more confined but not categorically different from pre-Covid.  I’m not different.  People aren’t different.  Circumstances have changed, but people haven’t.  But it feels so different!

So what does it mean to be healthy in this season?  What does it mean to love God well and people well?  What does it mean to make the most of times that are different?

I am trying to remember—for myself and for others—that, while things day-to-day are Groundhog-ish, that our hearts and minds are still feeling befuddled, off-balance, and out of sync.  That disorientation leads me to a low-grade sense of irritation or over-sensitivity; I am more aware of being easily frustrated or disappointed.  I almost have too much space and it exposes darker parts of my heart.  So, I want to use that awareness for God to change my heart, to make me more patient, more long-suffering (in the best sense of the word), and more generous.  I want to be aware of the stresses on others and give them grace, even as I feel more irritated and judgmental.  And when I feel the irritation and the judgement, I want to be saddened and humbled (not easy to accomplish), and I really need God to make it happen.

Every so often, I wonder what I’ll wish I would have done during this unusual season.  There is more space when you take seeing people out of the equation, so there should be more energy (but it doesn’t feel that way).  Are there conversations with loved ones that we could have now?  Is it the time to revamp my spiritual life, my time with God?  Or should I be doing those projects that never seem to get done?  I think I have taken little pieces of all three, but at this point, I sure won’t look back on this season with a sense of accomplishment.

But I will look back on it with gratitude for one thing: I am not very big.  This world and life can dominate me/us in ways I never imagined.  And that leads me to gratitude for a big God.  While I am befuddled, He is not.  While my world feels disoriented, I hear so many stories of God using this strange season to work in the hearts of people I know and love.  While I feel impotent and controlled, He is neither surprised nor befuddled.  And He is at work.

Whenever this thing ends, there will be God stories.  He will do things through this strange time that would not have happened under normal circumstances.  And I hope, at least a part of me does, that my life will be one of those stories.  Don’t you?

Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister.  He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.

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