We store a lot of non-perishable food in mason jars. Visitors receiving the tour of our home are often surprised to see so much glass on a boat. But we have very little loss, even in rough weather and big seas. The jars are stored tightly packed so they can’t move, and we’ve added bungees to keep them from falling off the shelves, so we don’t lose the precious contents.
I have been feeling very fragile recently, and I know I’m not the only one. We are in some rough waters, and we need to make sure we are bungeed in emotionally and spiritually to keep from cracking! Here is one of my coping strategies when I am struggling: I open a new page in my journal and use the left-hand side to write down all the things I’m feeling. I then read what I wrote, weigh it against what I know to be true, and use the right-hand side to correct my thinking and be encouraged. I call it “telling myself the truth.” Sometimes it works, and sometimes I need someone else to give it to me straight. So many people have called “out of the blue” and done this for me when I needed it most it that I have ceased to call it coincidence. And I pay it forward whenever I can.
Here is a glimpse from the left-hand page of my neurotic inner life, fueled by summer heat, a cramped space shared by seven people with strong personalities, poor sleep, isolation, and global crises:
“I’m so tired I can’t think straight. I don’t even trust my own emotions in this state. I feel so utterly alone in this crazy world, and yet I realize that sinking into self-absorption/self-pity just makes everything worse.
It feels like we have been cut to pieces—each to his lonely sphere. The old and the sick are dying alone, all the important celebrations of life (graduations, weddings, births, holidays) have been cancelled, and people are trapped—like musical chairs, wherever they were when the pandemic hit, that’s where they stay, if they were lucky enough to get a seat.
Inside our boat, everyone is merely coping, but the loss of activity and friendship is painful; there’s little to offer as alternatives to screens. And we are the lucky ones with work, food, shelter, health (for now), and each other.
Outside the family, each household is cut off from the others, each group picked apart by conflict, fear, race, sex, disagreements over ideology or politics, loss, loneliness, and suffering. Even the body of believers seems to have been dismembered—a hand here, an eye there, a lonely foot.
I am so tired of hearing this at the grocery store: ‘Please remember to stay at least six feet away from other shoppers…We are all in this together.’ Can anyone else see the irony there? We are all in this alone—a friend across town might as well be on the other side of the planet. Digital substitutes for real people just make things worse. I’m longing for community: common + unity.”
And here is the result of my morning Bible reading from Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth, written on the right side:
“You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)
“Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8)
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Sometimes we forget that our bodies house an eternal Spirit and we lose our Big Picture thinking. Nothing terrible lasts forever. We do have to withstand a lot right now—but our resilience does not come from what’s on the outside. Our strength is not physical, but spiritual.
We are fragile, with bodies that age, sicken, and die, hearts that can be broken, minds that can become unstable, relationships that can be damaged. But on the inside we possess something powerful—King Solomon said “God has set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:10). If we can hold onto the knowledge that “the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53), if we can remember that despite our loneliness we are not really alone, then we can find our stability like the jars in my pantry: pressed but not crushed, standing firm, and holding the imperishable inside the fragile.