Written by Lucas Randall for Youth Specialties:
The spring of 2020 has been one of the most bizarre, complex, exciting, and demanding seasons of my 18-year tenure as a Student Pastor. My personal life has been a roller coaster as well. The range of emotions felt in a single week, let alone a single hour, has been dizzying.
At the beginning of our journey with COVID-19, I was optimistic and enjoyed the opportunity to be creative and meet the demands of the time. I was excited to embrace the season with optimism and continue ministry despite the challenges.
However, as the weeks have worn on, I’ve found myself struggling to maintain motivation and avoid apathy.
As we walk into a summer of uncertainty, I know that many of our ministries will be notably different from what they have been in the past. Some of us are still embracing optimism, genuine or with gritted teeth, while many of us are also grieving. We’re grieving what we felt has been lost. We are also grieving the labor of creating a ministry for the summer that we are pre-disposed to think may be inferior to our traditional summer programming.
Most of us like to construct a plan and execute said plan. We find comfort in being able to have some sense of control in our vocational and personal lives. While this season has stripped us of what we are typically able to have a grip on, one thing that we can control is how we care for ourselves. This is, arguably, the most significant thing we can do at this time.
Here are four self-care practices that I believe can make our summer great despite the pandemic:
Let’s give ourselves some license to mourn what is lost. In the Old Testament, we see that God’s people had rituals regarding lament, rituals that lead to hope (Lamentations 3:22-26)! Somehow our culture, and even the Church, has steered us to avoid and/or quickly seek a remedy to grief. In doing so, we short-circuit the emotional wiring God placed within us. We also rob ourselves of the lessons God may want to teach us in our grief. Jesus himself tells us that, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, NIV). Mourning is the avenue to comfort! We must find a place to share our grief by crying out to God and others.
Few things in our lives have as much power to bring about a change of heart and attitude as the discipline of gratitude. Taking a moment to choose to focus on the good things in our lives serves to disrupt our “spiral” into “doom and gloom”. Similarly, there is nothing that compares to gratitude in serving as a salve that begins to bring healing to grief. Gratitude ultimately points us to the One to whom we are grateful, and the worship that results is truly restorative!
One thing many of us are wrestling within this season is boundaries with work. The almost instant overhaul that most of our schedules received, with the addition of non-traditional hours, has caused us to feel like we are almost constantly in “work mode”. Even in a season that demands flexibility, we need to establish boundaries. Let’s challenge ourselves to find days, or even portions of days, to be away from our email, phones, and social media. Let’s use the time for prayer, exercise, art, naps, reading, relationships, and other things that nourish our souls.
With many of our days looking and feeling the same, great joy can come from spontaneity. While it’s hard to “plan” to be “spontaneous,” we can pre-schedule some time where we allow ourselves the chance to decide what we will do at the moment! We can choose a new recipe for dinner, find an unexplored hiking trail in our area, or catch a sunrise with a picnic breakfast. Even with some restrictions still in place, we have the opportunity to choose something “new” in a season that has given us a lot of “new” by force. Spontaneity ignites our lives and restores our creativity and optimism!
May we live out the timely words of Paul the Apostle, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, NIV).
Let’s tend to that which we do have control over, ourselves, in preparation for all that God will continue to do in our lives and through our ministries.