Chiara, 15, walked into our family room after a socially distanced bike ride with a friend and wisely observed that just a couple of months ago wearing a mask seemed like such a burden, an unusual discomfort, but now it’s completely normal and not really a big deal at all. That was perfect timing on her part because I, too, had been pondering the ways we humans are able to adapt to challenging or different circumstances with relative ease (unless we’re just stubborn), and isn’t that a marvelous and miraculous thing.
I think a lot of people are realizing that truth and registering it on different levels. With regularity I see funny memes and cartoons go by on social media that all drive home the same sort of point: If, in 2015, someone had asked you where you would see yourself in five years, you never would have guessed it would be here, in the middle of a pandemic, wearing a mask, carrying hand sanitizer as if it were a talisman, isolating from friends and family. But here we are, and, for the most part, we’re doing OK, if we’re fortunate enough to remain healthy.
Think back to when all of this started in mid-March. When I left my office, I figured I’d be back in a few weeks, a month or two at most. I didn’t imagine we’d be heading into the next school year still uncertain about how everything was going to work and whether any of it is a good idea. We are in uncharted waters every single day, treading water when we have to, swimming frantically when the situation calls for it, and every now and then sinking back and floating with ease, but always trying to just keep our head above the surface and carrying on.
It’s not easy, but for those of us with a deep faith and a regular prayer life, it’s a little easier, I think. We feel less alone because we are connected to something so much greater than ourselves on a daily, constant basis. As we go through our days, we are very much aware of life’s uncertainty, now more than ever, and of the need to accept what’s been put in front of us and to surrender control, at least a little bit, to stay sane and centered.
I look at my three children — each of them confronted with hurdles that had to be overcome during this pandemic as internships were lost, study abroad was canceled and gymnastics, once a daily staple, became a distant dream. And yet they have accepted, adapted and surrendered in the best sense of the word, the spiritual sense. They are moving forward, not completely sure where they’re going or where they’ll end up but trusting that forward is the only way to go. And that is the essence of faith. We don’t know —we can’t know—what’s coming (even when we think we do), but we have to keep moving forward. Accepting, trusting, adapting, surrendering to wherever God leads us, even if it wasn’t on our radar screen.
In one of his most famous prayers — one that’s worth keeping close at hand — famed Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote: “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Accept. Adapt. Surrender. Trust.