“All you have to do is grin and bear it.” This was the advice I received as a child. It was the advice of calloused-handed farmers who had seen more than a few lean harvests. It was the advice of penny-pinching survivors of the Great Depression. It was the advice of traumatized World War II veterans – young boys who wore their scars as much on their souls as on their bodies. I don’t really remember who said it, exactly, but its message stuck.
Over the years, I have become pretty adept at “grinning and bearing it.” My tolerance level is extremely high for uncomfortable situations. Up to this point, it has served me well. Breathe deep. Put your focus on the outcome. Pray. Don’t let go.
“White knuckling it” will only get you so far, however. As I think back to March, I’m pretty sure that I tried to fall back on what I knew as we entered into this strange new world. Sure, it was tough. Sure, it was scary. But, it was definitely temporary. We were going to get through this.
In the last four and a half months, my optimism about the ultimate goal has not waned. I am certain that we will get through this. However, the path to that end has forked more times, and in more ways, than I ever expected.
In retrospect, I think that I was taking my early cues from those military voices: Identify the enemy. Attack full on. Don’t let up until you’ve powered through. Four months in and weary from the journey, I’m finding that I may need other voices to help me navigate these waters.
One such voice has emerged in the form of a retired pastor and mentor. Diagnosed five years ago with a very aggressive and incurable form of cancer, he decided that instead of constantly fighting it, he needed to learn to live “with” it. He even gave his cancer a name: “Frank.” An obvious play on words, he said that this was a “frank cancer – in your face, direct, and without sugar-coating. Not shy, wall-flower, and stay in the background cancer.”
A few months after naming his cancer, this friend wrote, “It’s ironic, and it’s a sign of the creativity and power of grace, that ‘Frank’ has proven to be a guide, a therapist, and theologian. Only God could make such a nettlesome and troublesome presence a source of wisdom and insight. I am grateful for what God can do with Frank!”
Instead of just trying to get through COVID, how might my perspective change if I started asking how to live “with” COVID? Instead of just ignoring it or fighting it head on, how could this unwelcome guest in my community, my kid’s schools, my church, and my routine become a teacher that reveals something about God and myself?
What good might God birth in our lives if we stopped fighting long enough to listen to the wisdom of the creative, powerful, grace guides of this unique moment?