There is a fine line between healthy transparency and self-centered whining. I sometimes stumble over it. I tend to talk too much, or not enough, about my struggles and problems. Unlike some of the writers and bloggers whom I admire, I haven’t mastered the art of selfless transparency.
I hope I can be transparent today without seeming whiny or selfish. A number of things have weighed me down lately with sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty.
I’m not sure what to do, except to keep going.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide,
who through all changes faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
A couple of months ago, as I sat in a back pew of my church, a singer took the stage for a special performance of “Be Still My Soul.” It’s a beautiful hymn, and one of my favorites. As the singer began the second verse, I was surprised to find myself holding back tears.
I almost never cry. It took me a moment to realize why an old hymn had brought tears to my eyes.
“Be Still My Soul” took me back to simpler days, when God seemed near and the future seemed bright. Oh, how things changed. I’ve kept my faith, but it seems to make so much less sense. As I listened to the hymn, I grieved.
It was a moment of painful emotional clarity. I felt, for a moment, echoes of my old faith, with its old confidence and hopefulness. I mourned their loss.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future surely as the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.
Work has been really tough lately. A widespread shortage of nursing professionals has left my workplace, a nursing home, hilariously short-staffed. At any rate, the staff shortage would be hilarious if it weren’t, y’know, a serious problem that’s exhausting and demoralizing those of us remaining.
I applied this week for part-time work at a few local libraries. They aren’t hiring, unfortunately, but offered to keep my applications on file. I’m not hopeful, but hey, I tried. I tried, I tried, I tried. Now it’s back to a workplace that seems a little more dysfunctional every day.
At least it’s not as bad as my last job, I remind myself. It isn’t yet.
I learned just yesterday that starting next year, I must either work more hours every week, or lose my employee health insurance. It’s not an easy choice. I feel like I can’t handle working any more hours, especially under current conditions, but can’t afford to lose my insurance coverage.
Whatever I decide, change is on its way.
I’m not the only one facing uncertainty. A few days ago, the United States of America chose Donald Trump as its next leader. I’m busy preparing for the Mad Max-style wasteland this nation will become.
I’m kidding about the wasteland. I wish I were kidding about Trump. In writing this blog, I’ve avoided political discussions: partly to avoid strife and controversy, and partly because I’m not versed in politics. Today I’ll make an exception to acknowledge that Trump’s election troubles me greatly. A majority of voters supported a narcissistic liar who openly derides women, immigrants, minorities, and the disabled.
Is this America? Are Trump’s ideas what we value, support, and believe? Is this God’s Church in America? Have we really decided Donald Trump was the most Christlike candidate for president?
(Besides, have you seen Trump’s hair? It’s not a hairdo—it’s a hair-do-not.)
Trump’s election is appalling, but Hillary Clinton was hardly a better choice. This was an ugly election, and I couldn’t see any possible victory. Simon & Garfunkel put it well: “When you’ve got to choose, every way you look at it, you lose.”
America, which already seemed plenty broken, is in shock. Reactions range from fear to outrage to smug satisfaction. Heck, the situation makes my workplace seem perfectly ordered and functional by comparison.
I just want to stay home, drink tea, and wrap Christmas presents. Is that an option?
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord;
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
My parents moved to Spain a week ago. After using my apartment as their home base for seven months, they packed, said goodbye, and launched themselves bravely into the next chapter of their journey. I miss them. More to the point, I am so proud of them. They live by faith, always cheerful, bouncing from place to place with practiced ease, loving others.
A week or so before my parents left, my older brother and his family concluded a brief visit to Indiana. They’ve returned to the Dominican Republic to continue working with troubled youth. I’m proud of them, too.
My family lives by faith in Jesus Christ. They uphold a legacy of belief and devotion that stretches back generations. That circle remains unbroken. I believe. At any rate, I try.
Perhaps my favorite prayer in the Bible isn’t actually a formal one, but a desperate plea from a man at the end of his hope. A father begged Jesus to heal his son, who from childhood had suffered from an excruciating malady caused by a demon. (Here’s the full story.)
“If you can do anything,” pleaded the man, “take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” echoed Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
The father exclaimed, desperately, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
That’s my prayer these days.
I face my own challenges, and the world seems more broken by the day, but God has a reputation for calming storms, and for making just a little good stretch a long way. God is bigger than social inequality and personal problems—and he is certainly bigger than Donald Trump’s hair.
Be still, my soul.