We’ve been friends for over a year now. Our writer/reader relationship began in the midst of social distancing, working from home, homeschooling and the novel Zoom meeting. I recognize our friendship is a one-way conversation. I do hope my words and reflections have brought a sense of comfort, connection, and encouragement to you during this season of wilderness. As vaccine availability increases by the day and we begin to re-enter the world again, serious and universal questions await us, my dear friends. They are the questions found on the other side of the wilderness: Who am I now? What am I going to leave behind in the COVID-19 wilderness? What lessons will we bring with us as we “re-enter” the world? What residual grief will I carry from this time?
The wilderness has changed us all. All of our faith traditions reveal the universal truth: that people enter the wilderness as one version of themselves, and the challenges and hope of the wilderness change people. Simply put, the version of yourself that went into COVID-19 will be different from the one that re-enters the world in ways you can identify and ways you have yet to discover.
Not only did the COVID-19 wilderness invite us to examine our lives more deeply, the harsh reality is, it also more deeply divided us. We were divided over social distancing, masks, race, an election, re-opening strategies and an insurrection at the Capitol. COVID-19 revealed fractures in our relationships and families. As changed people, how are we going to make room for one another?
The apostle Paul gives us an excellent metaphor: “Now the body is not made up of one part but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body….The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’”
The world has taught us to cut one another off if we disagree on substance and consequence matters. There is another way, and frankly, we need to remember this good news now more than ever. We are ALL members of the body; we need one another now more than ever. We can no longer cut one another out. We are members of the same body.
Friends, as we return from the wilderness, we need to make room for the grief we carry. We need to make room for the differences that have been revealed. We need to make room to hear one another, see one another and forgive one another.
We are a changed people. May all that we have learned in the wilderness shape how we return to one another.
With great hope,
Rev. Matthew Ruffner is the Senior Pastor at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church. He is a husband to Sarah Ruffner and a father of two. You can follow Matthew on Instagram and visit PHPC.org to watch the church’s live stream and listen to sermons and churches listed here. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.