Written by Rachel Roche

Catchy title right? I can hear your brain whirring… “ Three point article with alliteration. Cute picture to draw us in, and how will she apply all this? Covid19….. yes there must be an angle in there somehow. A year ago the thought would not have crossed my mind, but today I look at everything and think how could that relate to our Covid filled world. Oh yes, the word loss in the title connects to Covid. Hmmm how does the cow and the kid fit in though?… not sure…ohhh she is involved in children’s ministry somehow. That will be it!!  Hmmm maybe I could use this for a sermon coming up.”

Am I right? Well maybe not quite, but I have seen my share of Carey grads, Pastors and key stakeholders to see how your brain may work. Always on the job, always seeing the connections, always navigating so many spaces at once. In all ways being all things to all people.

Each week I am seeing so many of you who are tired, some even go so far as to say they want this year over with. Sadly some are burning out, losing jobs, and unclear on direction. In amongst this I have been asked to write an article that will speak to the now, and resource you for tomorrow – the unknown.

The reality is nothing can prepare you for the unknown. Scripture makes it very clear we are not to worry about tomorrow (Luke 12:22-34). God knows our needs and will provide for us. Having faith and trusting our future to God is a radical concept in today’s world of control.  It is our role through a Kingdom worldview to observe what is happening in our world and draw from scripture in order to lead in this uncertain time. This pandemic has exposed so much and accelerated us into spaces many of us never knew we needed to go. Leadership podcasts and articles on how to lead through a pandemic greet us each time we open our emails, or surf the net. As leaders we are trained to lead no matter what comes our way. As we navigate this crazy time I have a few reminders and action points.

  • The loss we have suffered is great. There is no denying that. The impact of that loss is far from over. It is not an excuse, or a cop out to acknowledge the toll of the past months on you, your family, your ministry, your workplace, your spiritual life and every other part of your life. Loss is followed by grief. Taking some time to grieve does not mean you are letting the side down, but being real. In a safe space acknowledge your disappointment. Take the time to grieve the losses you have encountered. It has been said before and it will be said again be kind to yourself. Look after yourself. Do those things only you can do.

Action : Have an honest chat to someone about how the past six-eight months has impacted your world.

  • This year is not a mess. This year is not a mistake. You are leading, studying, pastoring, and living through this and God is already in it. You are designed to be the one who would walk this path. What will you take from this season? Will you grumble and look to the hard stuff, or will you rise above it and look to God? I am not casting stones or judging, as I speak to myself too. I could have named this article “The Journey from Grumbles to Gratitude”. Just as Paul wrote from jail spurring on the church of Phillipi, I too encourage you to focus on, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Phil 4:8).

Action : Today might be the day you need to start a list of the things you are grateful for.

  • Take some time to assess your reaction to crisis. With hard stuff piling in, many of us react by trying to escape, or seek comfort. Often we divert to unhelpful thoughts, or unhealthy habits. Some of us turn to alcohol, gaming, food, pornography, social media, or Netflix. We all need time out to relax. However, wisely opting for activities that are joy giving may take effort and planning. My unhealthy response to an overwhelming sense of helplessness and stress led to a journey of addiction. Investing my time in distractions numbed my heart, and stole my joy. The challenge is to focus more on the good, pure, and true, so that we can gain a healthier perspective.

Action : Are the things you are filling your tank with joy giving or joy stealing?

  • Recently I learnt that we are resilient to the extent that we lean on God. You most likely are light years ahead of me here. Naively, I had thought resilience was a concept we taught children, a worldly construct for being able to cope with anything and everything thrown our way. I am still kicking myself about why I did not think that the closer I draw to God the more resilient I am. The more time we are in God’s presence the more we can cope with. Now is the time to rely on God like never before. Linger with the following words: resilience, renewal, refreshment, and revival. Look up some scripture that reminds you of the importance of these concepts.

Action : Grab your diary right now and schedule in some Jesus time.

  • Archie and the Cow – yes we still need to address the ‘cow’ in the room. You could draw many parallels between your life and the picture above. You could come up with some great biblical connections, or illustrations for a sermon. Simply I want to say this wee chap is having a yarn to his friend, who happens to be a rather large cattle beast. He is not worried about the possibility of harm, disease, or performing for onlookers, but is just simply being in the present, having a chat.

Children teach us. Most often with them there is not a reason, or ulterior motive, often nothing beyond the work of play, enjoyment and fun. I wonder how often you play? The gift of play is given to each of us, but more often than not abandoned for the serious work of ‘adulting’. Possibly this is because of the fear of the unknown, the knowledge of potential threat, the weight of responsibility, the magnitude of limited time, and the presence of others watching. Often we leave play to the young. I wonder what would happen if we played more? I wonder what would happen if we took more time to enjoy the many gifts we have been given? Such a gift might be to relish the pages of a good book, feel the smooth road against the tyre of our bike, hear the chatter of grandchildren, smell the freshly baked bread, hold the hand of our dearest love, taste the cool clear water that runs from your taps, or listen to a great symphony.

Action : Take some time to step aside, curl up without a care in the world, sit by a ‘cow’ and enjoy the moment.

Lift your eyes. Look beyond the loss. Look above your circumstances. Lift your eyes. Where does your help come from? The Lord God almighty, creator of heaven and earth. The Lord asks us, calls us, to trust, hope and believe in him. The worries of tomorrow are his.

You are loved. Take some time to dwell in that thought. Love and be loved. Remember to laugh and rediscover play. Enjoy yourself between the hard stuff.

Pause, remember and celebrate. Pay attention to this moment. The blessings are here. Here in Aotearoa we are given so many gifts. Relish and be grateful for the good… and take some time to have a chat to the cow who may seem a threat, but right now is a friend, offering a fresh perspective.