What Will You Leave Behind?

I’ve been having conversations with people about how they feel about life at the end of the COVID tunnel. You would think that it is all joy, but there’s a bittersweetness I’m hearing.

One friend I knew she was a single mother with two kids who had left the big city to move to a neighboring state so her kids would have a yard to play in. She let me share her story if I changed some things.

I knew the pandemic had been tough on her. She felt ashamed for her divorce and never felt she juggled time with kids and her work very well. She felt embarrassed that she could afford a nanny and couldn’t imagine living without one. The pandemic had been hard on her.

So, when we talked, the thing that was stressing her out completely surprised me.

It wasn’t any of the things I’d imagined.

She shared that her new fear was going back to life before the pandemic.

“I know this is crazy,” she said, “but for all of my fears going into this crisis, there’s a lot that happened that makes me not want to go back. I’ve had the best year ever with my two kids. Sure, it has been hell trying to seat them in front of the damn zoom for class as I rush into the other room pretending to have things together as I jump on my own business call.”

“But I’ve loved living here. I’ve loved being with my kids. I used to love to travel for work going to conferences meeting new people and doing public speaking. Now, I dread it. How did I do it? Just the thought of going to the airport now makes me sick. The other day I looked at the suits in my closet and, once again, it almost gave me a panic attack. I’ve been wearing clothes I enjoy for a year. I cannot remember that person I was before.”

“I realized I was married to a high powered job title, but that’s a lousy husband. My company only really cares for what I can do for them lately. Watching people die this past year and had to plan what I’d do for my kids should I succumb to the virus. It made me think more deeply about what’s important and what’s eternal, like my soul.”

“The other day I got an email from HR celebrating that people who are vaccinated can return now. It’s a suggestion now, but soon it will be a requirement. I just don’t want to do it. I want to leave some things behind,” she explained. “I need spiritual advice.”

In speaking with my friend, I realized I too had anxiety about going back to “normal.” Last year at Easter I suggested that COVID was a chance to really question what’s important and that we should not go back to normal because normal wasn’t working for us.

To hear my friend saying this from the depths of her heart reminded me that we don’t have to go back to normal. If we use the lessons of the pandemic crisis to be proactive in deciding what to leave behind and what to keep with us.

In the Easter story we remember that incredible day when Jesus rose from the dead. And as he rose, he also left things behind.

I thought of the burial garb that was left in the tomb. This seemingly insignificant mention seemed important this year. The clothes of his death no longer served him, and they had to be left behind as he emerged as fully God.

Jesus left many things behind.

He left behind revenge for being humiliated and bullied publicly by the government.

He left behind betrayal from one his dearest friends, Judas.

He left behind any grudge he might have that Peter denied him.

He left behind his ministry on earth as he prepared his disciples to carry it forward.

He called us to leave behind a fundamentalist religiosity that focused on rules and forgot compassion.

Simply by the radical fact that Mary Magdalene is the first witness of Jesus resurrection, we are taught that the old world where men were the only preachers, teachers and ministers is left behind.

Jesus left a lot behind as he rose to new life.

I believe the same opportunity exists for us today.

As we rise out of a pandemic, we have new clarity of what’s important and what not.

Swedenborg’s insight explained the earthquake at the tomb to mark a new moment, new life and a new church. The state of how people could understand God had been changed forever.

We are in such a moment now.

The COVID crisis was a moment of clarity. We were reminded of the importance of hugs, dinners, laughing in groups, friends and family gatherings and time with our colleagues.

In reminding us what’s important, it also reminded us what is not. I asked my friend what wasn’t important, and she was crystal clear.

“I spent endless hours talking with friends about people I don’t like or admire. Our last President consumed my thoughts, conversations and reading consumption. There was also so much silliness in the world of reality TV or celebrity gossip that I followed and now I could just care less. I don’t really watch the news anymore and I’m calmer.”

“I found that I saved thousands of dollars by not eating out at the must ‘go to’ restaurants every night with friends with wine. Sometimes the food was great, but it never really added up. I never want to go back to those prices and lines.

I also don’t want to go back to work that I do because it pays well even when it doesn’t feel right. I’m going to live my life more thoughtfully.”

I could relate to her. I’ve spent too much time justifying activities because I worried I couldn’t survive without them, but I’m examining where I spend my time and questioning to see if the work I’m doing makes a difference.

Learning from Jesus I want to leave behind bitterness from betrayals, denials and religions that aren’t inclusive.

This Easter we get to rise again, and we get to leave things behind that aren’t working. We can leave behind judgement, grudges, hatreds, desire for revenge, bigotry and bullying.

We are not alone. We can do it in community. We are supported by our angels. God is with us ever one of our two steps forward and one step back.

Our church community needs to leave things behind too. For years our church community spoke about finding a way to record or share our services. The pandemic took all of the naysaying and reasons we could not do it and forced us to do it. We stepped out of the grave of our past way of doing things, we left things behind, and we stepped into the light of new friends around the world who join us each week.

We keep listening and learning and trying and failing and growing. What else must we leave behind?

The earth is shaking within us as we plan to enter back into the world.

We can use this time to leave behind limiting beliefs about the impact we can have in the world.

Today, God invites each of us to leave behind what is not good for our souls.

We are invited to step into new sunlight of the resurrection of Easter.

Did you have an earthquake experience as you came to understand God better?

What will you leave behind?

What new light of a resurrected life will you step into?

Happy Easter!
Amen