Anne Lamott’s words smacked me in the head.
“My pastor, Veronica, said yesterday that God constantly tells us to rejoice, but to do that, to get ’joice back, we need to have had joy before. And it’s never been needed as badly as now, when the world is hurting so badly, because joy is medicine.”
I had picked up my copy of Lamott’s book, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, in my Kindle library and started reading it earlier in the week. I don’t even remember when I bought it. I’d picked it up likely when it was on sale and sat it aside until, apparently, such a time as this.
Tears sprang to my eyes and a hallelujah rolled off my lips.
What a saying for an again seeker like me.
I read on with tears running down my face and directly into my ears. (That’s what I get for reading in bed. Which reminded me of my dad, who used to sing this old song called, “I’ve Got Tears in My Ears for Lying on Back In My Bed While I Cry Over You.”)
After getting smacked in the head, now I’m cry-giggling as Keck snores beside me. Sound asleep. I’m a little jealous for this pandemic has me sleeping less and anxious more. But, I read on.
Lamott is telling about visiting prisoners in San Quentin. Sharing how she and her friend travel there to teach the inmates how to write and tell stories.
And her words strike me again.
“I felt aware of the violence and fear of the world. I hardly know what to feel most days, except grief and bug-eyed paranoia. But my faith tells me that God has skills, ploys, and grace adequate to bring light into the present darkness, into families, prisons, governments.” (Emphasis mine.)
Prophetess? Did Lamott predict COVID-19? Did she predict we’d be sheltering in place? Scared? Weary in new ways?
Because the world is always a dangerous place. There’s always wars and rumors of wars, hate, harmful bacteria, viruses both biologic and electronic. There’s always something that can sap our joy and make us question everything.
Then she smacked me again as she shared that Pastor Veronica, along with Jesus and Paul the Apostle, was saying: “Don’t worry! Don’t be so anxious. In dark times, give off light. Care for the least of God’s people.”
As they were waiting to get in to San Quentin a cheerful guard had to view their IDs and stamp their hands with fluorescent ink. She quoted him, “You don’t glow, you don’t go.”
Lamott said it was the best spiritual advice she’d had in a long while.
What should I do in the time of coronavirus?
Pop my glow stick. Glow. Maybe like this. Be the light. A finger pointing to God.
With the words social distancing, face masks, and other things that seem to divide us – it seems difficult to figure out how to really give. What actually to do that will help bring comfort, joy?
We’ve been ordering delivery, tipping more, giving money to various causes. I’ve even sewed face masks for people I don’t know – praying the whole time with tense shoulders that my very bad sewing actually helps someone not get this horrible disease.
I feel like it’s not enough. But I’m convinced that scripture says those who seek will find, and that if I look for ways to help, God will show me.
I’ve awoken and prayed. Walked through the house in the wee hours. Searching for sense and meaning in all of this.
Rollercoaster emotions also have me filled with hilltop gratitude one moment and down in the valley of despair then next. Gratitude that I am rich, blessed beyond measure, filled with joy. And that this joy and this gratitude and this blessing can also fill the world again. Soon.
My own grief over lost things and experiences and bug-eyed paranoia that I would make someone else sick without even knowing it are eased when I think of the joy God brings. When I am reminded of the words of one of my favorite books of the bible: Philippians.
In troubling times like this, I can also rearrange my thinking. Focus on those true, respectable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, praiseworthy things.
It is my prayer that these words bring some hope in a dark time. There are many people dealing with deeply painful and grievous situations – they’ve lost a loved one during this time and cannot have a funeral. They’ve been sick with another disease. They’ve been struggling with financial situations that are devastating and hard. It’s overwhelming to think of the pain in the world at this moment in time. They won’t be able to just snap out of it.
I’m going to stretch my hands wide open and let the grief rip me in two today. And in this moment I’m going to choose to get some ’joice back. ❤