Spiritual insights can come from anywhere: a scripture passage, a good sermon, a kind and loving word, a beautiful sunset, your TV remote control. Yes, I know that last one sounds like the answer in a, “Which does not fit?” word test. But it is my TV remote control that gave me the greatest insight into how to deal with 2020.
Here are the most important buttons on a remote control: PAUSE, PLAY, REWIND and FAST FORWARD. Let us start with PAUSE because that is a real practice in the hospital.
We take a pause after a Code Blue (resuscitation) or a Code Gray (behavior disturbance.) Code Grays are tough because there is usually a lot of yelling on the part of the patient whereas in a Code Blue the patient doesn’t make a peep.
A few months ago we had a Code Gray where the patient was a big elderly man who was stomping around the hall outside his room. He was naked and shouting curse words in combinations that were quite creative. In spite of that, it was really upsetting and there were nurses and doctors and the police and a social worker and me, a chaplain. I said, “I’m from Spiritual Care, do you think he’d want to talk to me? Say a prayer?”
They called to him. “Spiritual Care is here. Would you like to talk to her?”
“No, I don’t want to talk to her. I’m mad at God! I want to KILL God!” So right then I decided my time was better spent on staff care after we got things under control.
The nurses finally coaxed him back into his room and into his clothes. (He was somewhat elderly so let me say here that tattoos just don’t age well.)
After he got back in bed we all stood in the hall and took a Pause. We stood in circle and had a moment of silence—a pause. It’s a way to acknowledge that something really big and frightening just happened, but we did our jobs and we all got through.
All us could use a serious Pause when we consider 2020. It was a big and frightening year: racial incidents, political fights and the COVID pandemic. Let’s just acknowledge how damn hard this year has been. And let’s acknowledge that we did our jobs as best we could and most of us came through it. And yes, sadly, we’ll still be going through it for a while.
The Rewind button is often pressed after Pause. Why? Because we need to rewind, look back at the year (or the week, or the day, or the moment) and ask ourselves, “What just happened? Who were we? What have we learned? What surprised us?” Rewind is not about ruminating or obsessing. It’s about looking squarely at events and how we responded. What kind of decisions did we make? Who did we show ourselves to be? Who were we there for? Who was there for us? Did we show ourselves to be followers of Jesus?
That last question is not to shame us. It is an honest question and one we should answer with enthusiasm because I think many of us were AWESOME. We stepped up as best we could. We wore masks, stayed home, joined protests, wrote letters, voted, sent cards, washed hands, sang songs, celebrated, decorated, isolated. We Face Timed, Zoomed, emailed, phoned, called over the fence, waved across the street. We smiled at the bus driver, saluted the garbage man and blew kisses to the mail carrier. And we prayed—oh, how we prayed.
In the hospital they smoothed the blankets over the crazy-sounding naked man and tucked him into bed. We cried. We offered boxes of tissue because we were not allowed to hug. We pressed REWIND and talked about what we could have done differently. Then we could cleanly move on to PLAY.
The PLAY button is the present moment. Where are we, how do we feel, what are we thinking right now. How is Spirit working in our lives right now? PLAY is where we need to be most of the time—right now, right here. PLAY may be the trickiest of all because we often itch to get out of the present moment. So we want to live in REWIND or FAST FORWARD. But the greatest treasure is found in PLAY.
Of course I also have to offer a secondary function of this button and that is to actually play. Have some fun every day. Even a moment of play can instantly rejuvenate us. After the Code Gray we discussed the naked man’s creative curse words. After we stopped laughing, we came up with some interesting combinations ourselves. Just those few minutes of laughter instantly revitalized us.
FAST FORWARD helps us look into the future and perhaps change what we saw in REWIND. Who do we want to be in the future? How could we act differently? Where could we have opened to grace? Or slowed down? Or listened more? Or spoken up? Or perhaps we hope we will act/feel/think just the same way. We need to live in PLAY most of the time, but it’s healthy to fast forward now and then and plan for the future.
There is maybe one other button on the remote control that calls out to me. That is the SOURCE button. It’s worth reflecting on what is the source for our lives? What/Who gives us strength, comfort and peace? For 2021 I’m picking The Divine, the Spirit and my favorite person: Jesus! He was by the way, included in the creative combination of curse words.