To say it’s been a hard sea­son is laugh­able. Hard doesn’t even begin to describe it. Even as the promis­es of Christ­mas, a new year and a vac­cine enter our frame of ref­er­ence, many of us are deal­ing with loss­es that are impos­si­ble to bear. We may feel as though we have been torn limb from limb. In fam­i­lies these loss­es can cause tumult and friction. 

This has cer­tain­ly been true in my fam­i­ly. While we are liv­ing more close­ly than ever and have spent more time togeth­er, peace and har­mo­ny haven’t been easy to find. From tiny offens­es like the nev­er-end­ing dish­wash­ing cycle to deep frac­tures like who am I to fol­low when the adults in my com­mu­ni­ty are not on the same page. 

Two prac­tices are cen­ter­ing me in Christ and help­ing me to stay con­nect­ed in this sea­son. I am real­iz­ing that for years (like decades) I have undu­ly prized har­mo­ny. As long as my life was with­out con­flict, I felt pret­ty on top of things.” As you might imag­ine it takes truck load of ener­gy to keep peace and har­mo­ny. Dur­ing the pan­dem­ic it’s not even pos­si­ble. I have come to end of my rope. 

My spouse is a health care work­er and my chil­dren (like most chil­dren) have expe­ri­enced a loss of what most mat­ters to them. Emo­tions are high, frus­tra­tion through the roof, and lament is on our lips. Peace and har­mo­ny left the build­ing with Elvis. 

I am learn­ing that Dal­las Willard was right, God’s address is at the end of our rope.”

Out of des­per­a­tion real­ly, I turned to the prac­tice of pray­ing the Psalms. Morn­ing, after­noon, evening and just before I go to bed, I am pray­ing these ancient words. Hav­ing lit­tle of my own words, they make space for the strong emo­tions and the real­i­ty of our world turned upside down. 

I con­tin­ue to come back to Psalm 31, the words res­onate deeply in my soul. 

Be gra­cious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.

The Psalms bring me back from my dis­trac­tion and dis­tanc­ing into the real­i­ty of God’s unfail­ing love and good­ness in the midst of the strug­gle not apart from it. The psalms are help­ing me to cen­ter in Christ, to sink deep my roots in the Trini­tar­i­an Com­mu­ni­ty of Love who longed me into existence. 

My sec­ond prac­tice has been play. With such deep and dif­fi­cult emo­tions always present play might seem counter intu­itive. (You and I, dear adult, strug­gle with this. This is child’s wis­dom, and we need it.) Play reminds us in times of deep strug­gle that hope is still alive. As play requires free­dom from cer­tain­ty, some­thing we don’t have much of right now any­way. Play reminds us that there is no waste in God’s king­dom. God will use every­thing for our good and God’s glory. 

Play also keeps us con­nect­ed. In fam­i­lies the most impor­tant thing isn’t peace, and it isn’t har­mo­ny (much to my sur­prise) the most impor­tant thing is con­nec­tion. In the midst of frus­tra­tion and fear and fight, we need to stay con­nect­ed. Con­nec­tion gives fam­i­lies resiliency. 

We make time and space to lis­ten to the hard emo­tions and lean in rather than lean away. Lean­ing away can look like shut­ting down hon­est shar­ing, it can look like dis­tract­ing and dis­tanc­ing through media. It can look like forc­ing a peace when there is no peace. 

If you find your­self is this space, dear friend, you are not alone. One of the gifts of the Psalms is the record­ed expe­ri­ence of God’s con­tin­u­al pres­ence. Even when we don’t feel it, even when we are angry, even when all seems uncer­tain, God is near. Take some time this week to pray Psalm 139. Let it be the place you fun­nel your feelings. 

As a stub­born act of hope, try play­ing a bit. If you live with chil­dren, ask them to help you. If you don’t live with chil­dren, think back to some­thing that you enjoyed when you were very young and do that. Play can look like tak­ing a walk out­side, danc­ing in your kitchen, mak­ing some­thing with your hands, or learn­ing new jokes. 

Stay­ing cen­tered and con­nect­ed is not easy, but it has been worth my pal­try effort. May pray­ing the Psalms and the prac­tice of play meet us where we are and open us to hope eternal. 

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” — Psalm 31:24

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Originally published December 2020

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