Finally! No more wearing masks, social distancing, or washing hands to the point of making them raw and chapped. This is what I long to tell myself after nine long months enduring the pandemic. Unfortunately there is no visible end in sight. When we locked down in the spring in order to “slow the spread,” I figured by Thanksgiving we would be heading back into the pre-pandemic normalcy that is my life. Instead, daily newscasts report increasing infection rates, and warn of the dangers of holiday travel and gathering with loved ones. The pandemic rages on, and I find myself in danger of falling “down a rabbit hole.”
As one who enjoys the creativity of fantasy fiction, I have always loved books like Lewis Carroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1865 the author coined the phrase, “down a rabbit hole,” when the main character, Alice, followed a white rabbit into his hole, and she fell head first after him. The fall led her into an alternate world, wandering aimlessly where nonsense and confusion were commonplace to all who resided there. These days we speak of heading “down a rabbit hole” when we get sidetracked looking things up on the internet, or searching for a long lost item in a closet. For me, falling “down the rabbit hole” happens when my brain is allowed to wander into places it should not go. Because of my vivid imagination, I am able to conceive of all kinds of wondrous things. While this makes writing, creating art pieces, and decorating lots of fun, it can also lead my brain to places best left alone.
This vibrant imagination can be my own worst enemy. Wandering into dark tunnels where doubt prevails, my mind conceives of the worst possible scenarios. Lately I have found myself pondering what the next months of winter cold and darkness might be like. I am left with a deep sadness that sometimes even paralyzes me. You see, as I consider facing the holidays without the usual family gatherings and holiday traditions, I am left at a huge loss. After all, I continue to navigate life without my husband, whose death has left an enormous hole. To concede that small get-togethers bundled up in the yard or garage, will replace the usual raucous laughter, tugs at my grieving heart. Gone this year are the times around the dinner table eating family favorites and playing fun games. It is a struggle to navigate the holidays without all the usual family and friends around.
My head knows that staying home is the right thing to do, yet my heart is not on board at all with the prospect. This longing I feel for things to be “back to normal,” whatever that it is, robs me of life in the here and now. I know I can’t go back to the way things were before the pandemic, but it doesn’t stop me from longing for it. Then I remember about the intentional ways of living that make up a life of mindfulness. Lao Tzu says, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Oh how I long to be at peace!
The same message comes to me from the Creator about not worrying about those things which I cannot control. Matthew’s Gospel talks about not getting worked up about what MIGHT or MIGHT NOT show up in the days ahead. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34, MSG) It’s really hard for me to remember this kind of trust of the Creator. After all, I am strong and independent, so I can surely handle it all myself. Except I really can’t. Once I start down the rabbit hole…. Once I enter the dark tunnel of what if’s….Once I imagine how it will feel to be alone.... I get lost in my own inner dialogue that drags me down, and robs me of the joys that are present right in front of me.
Connecting well with the Creator is what keeps me grounded in the life right before me. That only happens when I put aside my own desire to control things, and allow the Creator to guide me through these hard times. The holidays without family will be very difficult, and yet also very necessary in order to protect one another from the spread of the virus. And so, instead of falling “down a rabbit hole” of darkness and sorrow, I will lean on the One who can make my load a little lighter. The Lord promises this:
“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you
rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for
yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11: 28-30 (CEB)
I know this to be true because the Creator has lightened my load many times. When my grief is heavy, I put on the yoke of the Lord and the sting of sorrow is lessoned. In the span of 2020, with hard things piling up, one on another, I have found rest for my weary soul in the arms of the Lord. The challenges don't disappear, but in God's hands, they become more manageable. It is there that I choose to place my trust.
I do not know what tomorrow will bring. That should not stop me from being my best self TODAY. And I realize what is best today is to seek to protect those I love. That means missing out on the in-person time with them this holiday season. It means finding creative ways to connect anyway. I am grateful for the One who will walk this challenging time with me. The One who will encourage my creativity to seek out novel ways to be with others. The One who will be with me when I can’t be with others. The One who will walk with those I love, and will connect us through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s not ideal, but it is something. In fact, it’s a big something, because it can prevent my descent down the rabbit hole of doubts, darkness, and longings.
Creator God, in this time of isolation and darkness, please bring the light of Your love and peace upon me. I cannot do this alone, so please help me carry the load that is my life. So, too, be with those I love as they, too, endure the tough things. Thank You for Your never-ending presence. Amen.
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