Last week someone shared with me, “COVID taught me that we can do really hard things.” I paused, smiled. Thought, that’s true. I think we all learned this past year and a half perhaps that we can do things that we’ve never done before and perhaps thought we never could. I think of all the particular challenges we have walked through – wrenching grief and loss, uncertainty, anxiety and isolation. I think myself of needing to learn to live and work differently, lead worship differently, make connections differently – not always easy and sometimes even fun. But all hard in different ways.
In last month’s newsletter I shared some thoughts on what it takes to do hard things as I prepared to take off on a 10 day backpacking trip through the 100 Mile Wilderness, while church leaders wrestled with next steps in opening the church for public worship and meetings and as others of us delved more deeply into the learning, conversations and growth required to become an anti-racist people.
However, it’s one thing to write about what it takes to do “hard things” and another thing to actually do them. In the last two weeks on the trail I learned a bit more about what it really takes to do hard things.
I wrote in last months newsletter, “Discomfort is not bad. Discomfort can build resilience for ongoing learning, growth and transformation.” I learned on the trail that discomfort just hurts! I appreciate so much all your prayers and concerns for my foot which I have been freely complaining to you about for the past 5 months! My foot held up and while it hurt sometimes other parts of me hurt more. I learned that walking with discomfort is the way to find your way down the trail. It’s not getting over it so much as breathing into it. It’s adjusting your pack, shifting your weight and when you can’t pull it in any tighter or let it out any more, learning to to take a breather, get a snack so you can get back out again out on the trail.
Last month I wrote, “As we do challenging work and take steps to new beginnings we need to be ever mindful of taking care of ourselves and one another.” I learned out on the trail that sometimes taking care means turning back and offering a hand to someone struggling over the giant boulder behind you. But more often it is walking ahead showing the way through and instilling a confidence and commitment that those behind they can do the same. I discovered that the gifts of laughter along the way and pausing to take in the wonder of a mountain top view are some of the best ways we show care to ourselves and one another.
And finally, I wrote, “Times of challenge and change are good times to pay attention to how our learning feels in our bodies. Taking time to notice how we are feeling can help us move openly and authentically into times of change.” I learned on the trail that I am not so good at listening to my body. I am more familiar with thinking my way through than feeling my way through. But to make a long trek well and with care, you need to learn to feel your way. I had to learn to notice when my energy was waning and to reach for another BoBo Bar instead of putting it off for another hour. I had to learn to pay attention to and tend the hot spots on my feet lest I get three more blisters. I slowly learned that listening to your body takes time and practice.
In the past weeks, I hiked 100 miles, church leaders discerned and implemented next steps in a process of opening to public worship and meetings. We shared and heard in worship on June 20 what a difference it has made to our lives and faith to be on the journey of becoming an anti-racist people.
No, the thoughts I shared last month on journeying were not “bad” thoughts on doing hard things but perhaps incomplete. In this time of continuing and challenging change — as church and other organizations are opening up in new ways, as we return to activities and connections we haven’t made in over a year — what wisdom is helping you make your way? I’d love to hear what you are learning and what is sustaining you along the “trail”!