Prayer, Exile, and the New Normal

Spiritual Smart Aleck

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The pandemic has taught me how fragile and precious we are to one another. I am not alone in that realization.

On Christmas Day I was burning with cabin fever, missing my family, and not keeping up a good attitude about this whole lockdown/isolation thing. I work to adjust my attitude – I use gratitude, and deep breathing, and what I call the power of Positive Denial: fiddle-dee-dee, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

In this time of loneliness and strained hope, prayer has been remarkably effective in lifting my spirits. It’s like forgiveness: I feel a lot better doing it than the people I’m forgiving or praying for feel. It makes me better.

Still I pray, in hope of doing some good in this hard old world. I pray for family, friends, acquaintances, and people I really dislike.

I pray for the repose of the souls of the dead, and I pray for all who mourn, specifically and in general.

I pray for all who have no one to pray for them.

I pray prayers of thanks for all the many blessings in my life.

There is a bible passage that says you should pray in private, so that no one knows. You should not boast of your praying. I do not mean to boast here. I am telling you what helps me get through hard days. It is good to stop whining and pray.

I pray to connect with the creator, but still need to connect with people right here on earth.
Facebook is a connection to the world for me, but I wish someone would start up a social media platform for older people who have been in the house for months and need connection, without Facebook’s evil algorithms and election hacking. Maybe we could call it Boomerbook.

The gospel reading for January 3 is the story in the Gospel of Matthew of how Joseph is told by an angel in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and get the heck out of Palestine, because Herod the Great has been told that a new king of the Jews has been born in Bethlehem.

Naturally, Herod sees the baby as a rival, and wants to eliminate him. He orders every male child two years of age and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity be killed. This is known as the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

This is when I squint at God and say, why didn’t all the parents get a warning? Why did the Holy Innocents have to die? It takes only a little research to learn that historians who have studied Herod and his times believe this story to be folklore – a myth that never happened.
Maybe so, but we know that Innocents are slaughtered every day in our time.

Every.
Damn.
Day.

This is why myth and folklore teach us the truth, even if they are not the facts.
But I digress.

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went down to Egypt and lived there in exile until Joseph had another dream in which an angel tells him that Herod has died, and it is safe to go back home. The little family heads back to Palestine and settles in Nazareth, in a new home.

As I pondered this story this week, thinking about that family living in exile, it occurred to me that we are all living in exile right now. We are living far away from the familiar lives we had – the jobs, the family gatherings, meals, school, classes, concerts, all the human closeness and interaction which is so necessary and sometimes annoying for us. We are fleeing not from an evil king, but a virus.

We cannot get out of exile until the virus is under control. Then we can head back home. Not the home from which we were exiled, the new home, where we shall rebuild the new normal life.

Let’s be honest, now: life is a series of building new normals. You get past an obstacle and the next obstacle says, “Hi, there! I’ve been waiting for you.”

When my husband died, my old life was burned to the ground, and I had to build a new life, piece by little piece. It was hard work and I felt like a stranger in my own life, but I did it. I did not give up on life, even though there were times I was tempted.

We will miss the old times before Covid-19, a way of life that looks so easy in retrospect.
I encourage us all to build the new normal times.

In closing, I ask, do you remember when people said, “Have a nice day?” Now people say, “Stay safe.” That is part of our new normal.

Stay safe, beloveds.