Except for the St. Louis humidity, it’s hard to believe that it is already July! When we first closed our doors in March and started pre-recording Sunday services, I never dreamed we would be dealing with COVID-19 this long. In the past few months, in the U.S. alone, we’ve had more than 125,000 deaths, long-lasting, economic slowdown, and rampant stress and anxiety. We were patient at first, but now I hear more and more people say, “I’m done with this virus” and “I just want to get back to normal.” It’s natural that in our human skins we are losing patience and just want this ordeal to be over. We miss our handshakes, hugs, and social interactions. Patience has been defined as a willingness to wait, and we are tired of waiting.
Maybe there is a lesson for us in this story adapted from author Nikos Kazantsakis that I used to share with middle school students who were in such a hurry to grow up. I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as a butterfly was making a hole and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too slow in coming, and I was impatient. So, I bent over and breathed on it to hurry the process. As I did so, the miracle began to happen before my eyes; the case opened, and the butterfly started slowly crawling out. I will never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the poor butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. I tried to help with my breath, but in vain. It needed time to hatch out naturally as a gradual process in the sun. After struggling with all it had, it died in my hand. That little body, I believe, is the greatest weight I have on my conscience.Today I realize we should not hurry the great laws of nature but must learn to confidently obey the eternal rhythm of our lives.
It’s a sad little story but one that reminds us that there are things in this outer world we cannot control or hurry along. In a daily blog entitled, “Between Two Worlds,” Franciscan priest Father Richard Rohr of the Center for Action & Contemplation writes about liminal space, saying, “Liminal space is where we are betwixt and between, having left one stage of life but not yet entered the next. It is an inner and sometimes an outer situation where we can think and begin to act in new ways. He calls the global pandemic (and I would add all the social injustice and unrest in our country) a time of collective liminal space. It’s a time when we may feel vulnerable and humble, and our vulnerability and humility open our hearts and minds for something entirely new.
This time of physical isolation has been a time to “go apart for awhile” as Jesus did for 40 days before assuming his earthly ministry. Jesus did not rush the process but remained in the wilderness as long as it took for him to awaken to his powers and discern his Divine purpose. In our current liminal space, we can take time for contemplation and focus more on being than doing. As Father Rohr writes, “We can become silent instead of speaking, experience emptiness instead of fullness, anonymity instead of persona.” Through times of quiet, prayer, and meditation, this time betwixt and between allows us to rediscover who we are as individuals and as a spiritual community. We are developing deeper self-understanding, strength, and resiliency. Our lives will never be the same because our consciousness will never be the same. We have been shaped by this experience, and we will emerge with a greater sense of self and the importance of community, an appreciation for our oneness and connections, and a determined spirit to heal the inequities in our country and in the world.
Have a blessed summer.