I’m a middle child in birth order. I’m also an INFJ on the Myers Briggs Inventory. My Enneagram is 9. All of that means that I am hardwired to be a peacemaker.
I hate conflict. When people are angry at one another, I feel it in my own body. My heart breaks and my soul feels heavy and all I want to do is to smooth everything out.
After more than 18 months of a pandemic, I’ve grown to dread certain interactions, even as a I find myself craving for life to get back to normal.
When my phone dings, telling me I have a new message, I cringe–on any given day I’m receiving “information” from people all over the spectrum on the debates raging about COVID. The conspiracy stories about where the virus originated flood into my inbox. Skits from social media influencers–some of them ridiculing masking and vaccine mandates, some of them ridiculing people who oppose them are always waiting for me in Facebook Messenger.
I find myself often feeling short-tempered an unable to adequately cope with the constant conflict bubbling under the surface of my community, my parish, and my extended network. Of late, I’ve found myself getting snide with total strangers on the internet–something I have always prided myself in avoiding. The slightest little thing pushes me the point of snapping at others because this constant weight I’ve carried for the past year and half has become too much.
Recently, someone I love very dearly has been hospitalized in critical condition from COVID. In spaces where I have lifted her up for prayer, most people have thankfully been gracious and compassionate. They listen and they pray, and they don’t judge. And yet, as the icing on the exhaustion cake, there have been a small handful who have had to make it about the greater conflict in our world.
“Did she get vaccinated?”
“How old is she? Did she have pre-existing conditions?”
On one side are those who blame the victim on the assumption she rejected medical advice and didn’t get vaccinated. On the other side are those who blame the victim by assuming she had failed to care for her health prior to the pandemic. What is being unsaid by both sides’ prying questions is that this person I love brought this upon herself and deserves to be so very sick.
My levels of graciousness have depleted in this latest level of conflict and I officially hit the wall of burnout.
Most pastors, if we haven’t already gotten to that point, have been skirting it’s edges for months now. Recently, I heard that record numbers of ministers are leaving the ministry as the pandemic (paired with a particularly bitter and vitriolic election cycle) have taken their toll.
While I am far from contemplating leaving the ministry–I can understand why so many would.
I’m just so very tired. And I just want my family back.
Not just my birth family, but my spiritual family as well.
And I worry we’re driving wedges between ourselves that will never be healed.
As a peacemaker–something I really believe God hardwired me to be–this is too much of a burden.
So, when I sat down to read a Psalm today and found my Bible marked at Psalm 62, I couldn’t help but feel there was a little Divine intervention there.
I read David’s heartfelt words–this man tasked to lead an entire nation, one (like all nations) always at conflict with itself. I could feel his exasperation as he cried out to God: “How much longer will they attack each other?” But, more than that, I could feel his hope as he talked about God as his only source of rest.
I could almost hear him sighing the words, “Only in God do I find rest.”
I could imagine one of his advisors bringing him fresh news about infighting amongst his people–the sort of infighting that weakens a people and leaves them susceptible to forces that would seek to overthrow them. I could see him shaking his head in disbelief, wondering when his people would learn to love each other.
I felt myself sigh the same words as I read them: “I must find rest in only God.”
It was a much-needed reminder, as my phone chirped at me, alerting me to a new social media message, that I won’t find rest in people who are bent on conflict. My rest will come when I turn my heart and mind toward God and let God help me navigate these uncharted and choppy waters.
To my congregation: I know I’ve been short with some of you, and I’ve tried to apologize when I realize this. However, I’m aware that I may have snapped at some of you and not realized it–just know that it was not my intention to hurt anyone with pointed words. If I have, I am sorry.
Let us all try to do better together as we turn to God to find a moment of rest in what has been a long 18 months.