Yesterday, as I was pondering the inconclusive early results of the American Presidential election, I was struck by the image of a man struggling under the weight of a heavy burden.* It seemed like the perfect image for where we are at right now.
I know I’ve written of this time and time again this year, so please forgive me for repeating myself. But it’s a message that feels timely and important again and still.
We need to recognize and honour just how hard this year has been. This has been a year truly unlike any in living memory. Fires, hurricanes and ice storms, the pandemic and the grief, isolation, confusion, frustration, and exhaustion it has brought, and political and social instability in the world’s greatest superpower, have meant that we are all carrying a collective emotional and psychological load unlike anything we have experienced in our lives. To make matters worse, since we’re all carrying this load, there is no one to help us carry it. We’re all at full capacity.
The thing that struck me about this image, though, is that the work is needed work. An equally appropriate expression of the same Archetype would be a woman in labour. This isn’t work for the sake of work. It isn’t work we can just drop because we’re tired. It’s work — hard, backbreaking, exhausting work — we have to do in order to build or give birth to something new. And we need something new; the world we knew may have been comfortable for many of us, but this apocalyptic year has exposed its many harsh realities. As people of good faith — people who want to show up for our communities — we need to do better than what was.
And it’s easy at times like this to be overwhelmed by it all. But the thing is, as Christians, nothing about any of this is new. As I wrote on Sunday, life in this world is always tribulation. And our work — our hard, heavy work of hope, grace, and trust that, while “in this world we will have trouble,” God has “overcome the world” — remains the same.
Regardless of the outcome of the American election, regardless of how long the pandemic rages, our work remains: To love God and love our neighbour as our self. To proclaim good news to the poor and lonely and freedom to those held captive. To mourn with the grieving, to work for peace — God’s true peace that is not merely the absence of conflict but the presence of justice. To do the equally hard work of repentance, which is to see the world and our own lives through God’s clear eyes and not our own vision, clouded as it is by our neuroses and self-interest.
And so, brothers and sisters, we work.
But, as we work, we also need to honour our exhaustion and remember that the one who calls us to be willing workers in the world also offers us rest.
As we move on through these stressful days, weeks, and months, let’s look after ourselves, show up for each other, and commit to building genuine, welcoming, and supportive communities, for our sake and for God’s.
* The specific image was the 10 of Wands card from the Smith-Rider-Waite Tarot deck. For clarification of how I use and interpret these cards, please see my post on them from the Year of Magical Thinking series.