I am quite taken with the story of the early church in Thessaloniki because of it’s tumultuous beginning. You will recall in Acts, Luke tells us that not long after Paul began preaching in Thessaloniki, he had to be secreted out in the middle of the night because of the Jews in that place were so outraged by Paul’s theology. There was no good- bye. Some of the new Christians, just hustled him off to the city of Berea where Paul would actually be better received.
Anyway, I image it was difficult to not be able to say goodbye. One day Paul was there ministering and the next day he was gone – never to return. I can imagine Paul’s new flock was grieved at his disappearance. Paul writes about it in the second chapter of I Thessalonians:
As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again… I Thess 2: 17-18.
Separation is difficult. Change is hard. I read an article a couple of days ago published by the Harvard Business Review entitled, That Discomfort you’re feeling is Grief. https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief The author, Scott Berinato, says that most of America is dealing with some form of grief or another related to the Coronavirus and all that it has taken from us. He says that if we can name it, we may be able to manage it better.
Berinato says part of learning to manage the grief is to understand the stages of grief and how you may be expressing your grief. Here’s how Berinato suggests some of may be working out our grief. “There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed. Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”
In the first couple of weeks of the “Shelter at home” orders, I remember Anna talking to the children about the grief they were feeling because everything had changed and because they had been ripped away from their teachers, their friends and their routines. I suspect that feeling of grief is still with most of us, but it has gone underground. It surfaces now and again when we loose our temper or have an unexpected emotional moment. At such a time, be sure to give yourself a break. Grief takes time and we’re not out of this yet.
In the meantime remember all the people who long for your face just as you long for theirs. We may not see face to face, but love is not gone. God is near and keeps us close.
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