I was working on my memoir the other day and thought about my dad because I used the verse Psalm 30:5 "For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." I post it in the King James Version, because my dad used to sing that last portion, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!" outside my bedroom door on Saturday mornings at 6am. Alas, I didn't appreciate it as much as he thought I should have when I was a teenager who had been out till after midnight on Friday night after a football game where the marching band had done a show. Nonetheless, 35+ years later, it's a treasured memory.
Patrick has a rather different saying these days: "We're all gonna die!" And it's not without warrant. Our county in Wisconsin has not reached the peak of the first wake of Covid-19 and the kids (and teachers) go back to school on Tuesday. Patrick is only 53, but he has high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. He's not the only adult (or kid) in that building with medical complications. The death rate is low overall from the virus, but it tends to pick on the vulnerable.
No, we're not all gonna die. But some people will. And we don't have the best practices set in place yet, so opening the schools yet is a bit scary. Of course, not opening the schools is untenable for many families. So, we're screwed either way. I'm also concerned about the anecdotes were reading about with people getting complications of the virus weeks and months after the acute viral infection has resolved. The 98+% survival rate sounds great until you consider that there's another number out there that we don't know of people who will have long term complications. We're not all gonna die. We're not even all gonna get sick. Right now, though, those tasked with educating our kids are having a heck of a time figuring out how to do it as safely as possible.
And I woke up with a rip-roaring migraine this morning. I've been dealing with a low-grade migraine/high grade background headache for three weeks which has made me cranky beyond belief. I've been on a course of olanzapine which just gave me insomnia and swollen ankles. (My ankles are the sexiest part of me, so when they balloon up like watermelons, I feel quite unattractive!) I called my headache specialist yesterday and now I'm waiting for insurance approval for an SPG block to try and get some relief. Sounds great, no? Except that the block is done through my nose! I'll be taking something for anxiety before that procedure!!
Much of what I've been writing in my memoir has been how it took me a while to learn to lament and grieve the loss of my career and the difficulties of adjusting to life as a homeschooling homemaker. But, I was writing about hope and how Psalm 30:5 related yesterday. And it was a good thing.
Then, I called my dad, who has mild dementia. Dad didn't remember that I was writing a book, but he did remember a funny story about flying squirrels when he was a kid. When dad was in high school, he and his friends would trap flying squirrels by using wooden boxes in the woods at night. They would pick up the squirrels first thing in the morning because the flying squirrels would eat through the box if they were in there very long. The boys (including my dad, the paragon of virtue) would put strings around their necks and make them into temporary pets. During school, they'd put the flying squirrels into their shirt pockets where the flying squirrels would sleep because they are nocturnal. One day, in English class, one on of the critters woke up and started chittering away which woke up all the others. The teacher figured out what was up and sent the boys to the principal's office. The principal didn't punish them except to put the flying squirrels into a cardboard box for the day and told the boys to come get them after school. They boys didn't say anything but went back to class. Of course, the flying squirrels had chewed through the box by after school time. All's well that ends well, right? A number of years later, Dad was talking with his Uncle Red who was an architect that was doing some work on the high school where Dad had gone to school. He told Dad that there was a really bad infestation of flying squirrels in the attic, like nothing he'd ever seen. "Really?" said Dad. We got a good laugh from that story.
Life is rough no matter how you look at it. Covid-19 is a disaster. There's a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. There are wildfires out West. I've got migraines. My dad has dementia. We live in a world in which God allows bad things to happen. People have been debating the theological and philosophical reasons for this for centuries.
But, we have reason for hope. Don't skip the mourning. Spend time in the lament if you need to, but remember that joy comes in the morning. God is right there if you just reach out your hand.
1 Peter 5:7 tells us to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Jesus himself said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I know there are some practical questions on how we do this. And, if you have an anxiety mental health disorder, Bible verses by themselves are not going to do the trick. You need a physician and some medications. But I think there are many of us who are just a little overwhelmed who need an extra dose of Jesus right now.
Weeping may endure for the night and that's OK. Hang on to Jesus. Pray, sing, read scripture, whatever it takes. Joy comes in the morning. It may not be joy in our circumstances. I may not be healed of my chronic migraine, the federal government may not figure out the pandemic to our satisfaction, and my dad's dementia will certainly not get better. Nonetheless, Jesus will carry our burdens so that we can be joyful.
Please don't take this as light-hearted "happy-clappy" religion. It's not. This is faith for the hardest part of life. Remember the stories of concentration camp prisoners who would sing hymns in their barracks. This is what they knew; they could mourn for a while, but their joy would come. If they would hang on to Jesus, he would comfort their souls in the midst of unspeakable evil.
I've done my mourning and lamenting for a while. Now is the time for joy.
Are you holding on to hope and joy?