By Fran Lavelle
You can ask anyone who knows me, I love to cook. I love making wholesome and healthy meals and I absolutely love having people over for dinner. I love every minute of meal planning, shopping, meal prep, table setting, wine chilling, dessert making, and I love most the gathering of friends and family around my big country table. The pandemic has authoritatively terminated dinner parties and holiday gatherings since mid-March and will likely continue to scrub such activities for some time into the future. Not only have our gatherings been deferred but the glorious trip to Mother Kroger has been completely and utterly transformed.
Prior to the pandemic I never and I mean never thought I would utilize the “clicklist” shopping option at my local Kroger. Since the pandemic I use this option almost weekly and order my Mom’s groceries the same way. So, you are asking yourself, what do dinner parties and grocery shopping have to do with spirituality?
Here is the thing, as a society we have grown so accustom to having what we want, when we want. For most of us, we are a might bit demanding and our expectations for variety and quality are high. In a world of excess, it is easy to grow accustom to having what we want regardless of the season. But our present reality has made a mockery of our need for instant gratification and the best of the best. We have lost control of the things we have taken for granted like fully stocked shelves at the grocery store. The reality of having someone else shop for you means that you no longer control which bunch of bananas ends up in your cart. And we all know where we stand on the banana matrix of ripeness. If you are like me, slightly speckled bananas are considered over-ripe. If substitutions are made, you are not the one making that decision. On more than one occasion, I have found myself singing the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want” whilst unloading my “clicklist” groceries.
Therein lies the deeper lesson of this pandemic. This is a season of life marked by the destructive nature of an uncontrollable virus, but also marked by the opportunity to let go of our sense of control and seek God’s will. Ecclesiastes 3:1-5 reminds us, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.” This ebb and flow of life’s events recognizes a proper time for everything under the sun.
What has this time of pandemic been for you? In March, I thought we would shelter in place for a few weeks, beat down this beast called coronavirus and be back in business by mid-April. I saw an opportunity for a hard reset that would take us out of the unhealthy and all-consuming busyness of our lives. Five months into this gig and the unhealthy busyness is creeping back in. I do not want to backslide. So, I am making an effort to reprioritize how I give myself to God, my family and my work.
We will look back on this time in the years to come and think about the many ways our lives have been forever changed by the pandemic. Some of them are as small as giving up control of what tomatoes end up in our shopping cart. Some of them will be seismic shifts in how we live. Sorting out what gifts we take with us from this pandemic and what we leave behind might be difficult. Just like the parable of the wheat and the weeds we may need to wait until harvest time to separate what is life giving from the things that just are not that important anymore. For now, I am leaning in. I know there are important lessons to be learned in all of this. The pandemic and the Kroger “clicklist” continue to remind me that I will not always get what I want, what I get may be less than what I expect, and there is a season for everything.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson)