I welcome Reverend Johnny Jeffords as a guest writer for today. Please read and share his excellent post.
Sisters and brothers,
As we enter the holiday season this year, we can’t help but be aware that so much is different. Even in the best of times the season is difficult for many. The irony of “the most wonderful time of the year” being the time most dark and painful is a present reality. Statistically we know that the season amplifies the mental and behavioral health issues with which many struggle, and so many live that struggle in silence or untreated altogether.
And now we have the not yet fully realized impact of a global pandemic in front of us. This year, 2020, it’s all been too much. I’ve heard many say how ready they are for 2020 to go away. It’s an understandable feeling. The number of times I’ve heard the word “unprecedented” in 2020, is, well, unprecedented. The never seen before doesn’t surprise us as it once did. The unprecedented has become common. And you know what? It’s exhausting.
The challenges of this year have made us rethink so much. What does it mean to be the church in a pandemic? What does it mean to live in community at a distance? What is it to school our children? To take care of the least of these? Add the holidays into this mix, what with all that they are that is joyous for many while triggers for anxiety and depression for others, and this season will unquestionably be unlike any we’ve known before. It’s, and there’s that word again, unprecedented.
And then there’s the health implications of coming together within the expectations of family traditions. How does that happen? Does it happen? There was a time earlier on when we thought that these months of inconvenience would give way quickly to the return to the normal we lived in before. But what we knew as normal will always remain in the past. The pandemic has left us indelibly marked, as we have been by the divisions of political and theological tribalism, and by the abuses of power writ large. Brought together, it’s a lot. It’s too much, really. Our need to care for one another has never been greater. Our need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves has never been more important either.
No doubt public health leaders will give their best guidance on how to approach family gatherings during the holidays, and we’d do well to adapt our traditions to best protect those we love most. But each of us is feeling the pressure of the season in different ways. Some of us are finding that this year is more difficult than any before. We know we’re in trouble and scared about what to do next. In the absence of healthy resources, we revert to behaviors to numb our pain to the detriment of own health and to the relationships of those we love. What I’m encouraging each of you to do this season is be aware of your own inner struggles and know there are resources available to help you.
One such resource lives under the umbrella of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare. It’s the Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network. The story of how LWN came to be is born out of the tragic death of a United Methodist layperson who lived in the silence of devastating depression. LWN is Dennis’ family’s ongoing gift of hope for those who need not struggle in silence anymore. LWN evaluates need and makes direct connections with resources that helps each person address their struggles. The Jones family’s gift to the community is available for any of us, all of us. The number is 901-762-8558. There is a counselor available to talk with you from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. You can find them on the internet at https://www.methodisthealth.org/the-living-well-network/ .
So, we’re looking for healing. People of faith always are. In the Greek, the word for healing, “sozo,” carries a wide range of resonant meanings among which are healing, wholeness and salvation. It concerns the totality of who we are with focus on our spiritual health, our physical health, and our mental health. If you’re struggling with stress, depression and anxiety, don’t be afraid. If you’re self-medicating to cope and are tired of living in the shadows, there is help. The totality of who you are is how God made you. And God desires restoration of our total selves, mind, body and spirit.
If you’re struggling, there is no shame. There is only care, only hope.