Three Steps to Make January of 2022 Not Awful

 In Featured, Pastor Jason's Blog

by Pastor Jason Kramme

 

The last time I checked the vaccination dashboard created by the state, the vaccination rate in Minnesota was creeping into the 70% range. The last time I checked my Facebook page, my friends were 100% done with the pandemic. A small gap. In any case, from where I’m standing, people are ready to get out of their house and back into the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard friends rattle off finely tuned lists of post-pandemic activities and vacations like kids sitting on Santa’s lap riffing on their wish list. There is a giant amount of anticipation in the air, and rightfully so! We’ve been stuck inside and apart from each other for 15 months.

Most of those lists run about as far as Christmas, so I want to give you some advice for what I’m predicting will be a difficult January in 2022. It’s not that I’m predicting some new catastrophe (at least I hope I don’t need another Catastrophe Bingo card!) rather, it’s that I’m predicting that life will likely be back to normal, and we haven’t had normal in a long time. Our bodies and minds are tuned to drama, drama, and more drama. To a large extent these next six months are going to be about finding whatever the opposite of the last year has been.

The pendulum will come back to center, so before it does, let’s prepare ourselves.

Look inward, not outward

A subtle dynamic at play in the Gospels is that a lot of the friction between Jesus and the Pharisees is that the Pharisees continually blame their problems on external factors: Romans, tax collectors, ladies of the night, and pig farmers. They are constantly looking for external factors to explain why their lives are a mess. Sound familiar? As a people, Americans have been awesomely adept at placing the blame for their problems on minorities, LGBTQ people, and Tiktok. A lot of the time, at least politically speaking, only about 50% of the population agrees. But, last year, I think we were fairly unanimous that Covid-19 screwed everything up.

All of us have been able to blame the pandemic for something and for once we’re all pretty much right. It did mess up a lot of things! But what are we going to do when it’s over?

The alternative view that Jesus tried to get the Pharisees (and us!) to embrace is that while there may be things ‘out-there’ messing with you, at the end of the day, the real problems are right where they always were- on the inside. So what do you do? The first step is to look back to March of 2020 and do your best to remember what was stirring on the inside before things shut down. Chances are, like a weed under a lump of Covid mulch, it’s just waiting for daylight to begin to grow again. If you can, while you’re preparing to go on vacation, hold back some of those resources for prayer, counseling, and self-care so that you’ve got what you need to deal with what’s on the inside.

Reestablish roots

Israel and the disciples often found themselves up-rooted from familiar: their homes, their work, their routines, and worship. It goes without saying that we’ve experienced the same in the last year. Our homes have become our vacation spots. Our offices are in our kitchens. Our routines have been put on hiatus along with pants. Church is, well…

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been calling folks from Prince of Peace to check-in and one of the common themes I’m hearing is that people were dialed into online church for the first part of the pandemic and then once school started, it was one of the first things to hit the chopping block. The phrase, “yeah, we just haven’t done church in a year,” has been repeated numerous times.

In the ancient world, when Israel or the disciples’ snow globe got shaken up, a prophet or Paul would call them to return to the Lord. It wasn’t to shame them, or to guilt them into following rules, or even to ensure that God wouldn’t be mad at them. It was to help them put down roots in their identity as God’s people. The Israelites had to fight being assimilated by the Babylonians. The disciples had to fight being assimilated by the Jews and Romans. We have to fight being assimilated by our culture.

Now, please don’t hear me say that in the classic Christian Culture War sense. What I mean is this: Come January 2022 there will have been 14 months of pandemic time and seven-ish months of “OMG-let’s-do-all-the-things!” time.  That will have been almost two years in an artificial rhythm of life where regular worship, small group, and devotional practice has been on pause. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken two years off from the gym, it’s hard to get back in there!

Start small now. Get an app that’ll help you read a bible verse a day. The building is open for worship now, try getting in once a month and watch online on YouTube once a month. Start driving those roots into the ground now so that when January comes, you’ve got an established routine for the long-haul.

Consolidate Learning

There’s a process to really learning something. As the Gen Z’ers would say, “there’s levels to this.” The problem is, what ordinarily passes for learning, is really just understanding which is near the bottom of the learning pyramid. It didn’t take long for us to understand after the pandemic began that our schedules were insane. It didn’t take long for us to understand that the pace of our lives across a number of measures was unsustainable. Heck, I even wrote a blog post about the blissful amount of free time I had with my family last spring.

At some level, I think we all realized that almost everything on our calendar is a choice. That it can be moved or done a different way. We understand it.

But will we take further steps to really consolidate our learning about our schedules? Will we actually apply it? Will we change our calendars so that they afford us balance? Will we analyze it and find the connections between what activities give us life and those that keep us busy or numb? Will we evaluate our schedule according to our values to see if they even reflect who we are or want to be? Will we create something new as a result of all of this or will we just settle for chopped up, digital versions of what we’ve always done?

Jesus was always talking about resurrection. Later in the Bible Paul did, too, and what Paul kept saying about it is that, “the old is gone, new has come, you are a new creation.” In God’s eyes, you’re good, but practically speaking, I think we’ve got some work to do in order to live into what it means for us to be a new creation. Next January is coming and you probably learned about more than just your crazy schedule, so what are you really learning? What will become new?

I know there is still time between now and January of 2022, but you know what they say, “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” Now is a good time to start implementing these three strategies so that you can enjoy them when January comes. I’d love to hear about how you’re processing all of this in the comments.

 

Jason Kramme serves at Pastor of Spiritual Formation 

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