Monday, August 4, 2014

We Who Are Weary

"Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest" Matthew 11:28
"My soul is weary with sorrow;  strengthen me according to your word." Psalm 119: 28

I sense a great weariness in our culture that is manifested in fear and scarcity.  It lashes out in anger.  It hunkers down and closes our borders. It cultivates an unhealthy, over the top individualism that is not concerned with the common good.

What is weariness?  Weariness is a tired that goes well beyond being physically tired.  It is a tired that is in your bones, in your heart, in your soul.  It is not new. It is not a recent phenomenon tied to our high rate of inequality or modern living. Ancient people knew about weariness.  There are at least 40 references to being weary in the King James Bible in both the Hebrew and Christian books; another site listed 100.  In some cases the writer tells the listeners/reader to not give up, do not grow weary.  In other cases, the writer promises rest and renewal for those who are weary and heavy burdened.  

We don't talk about being weary.  We hide it away, barely acknowledging to ourselves how worn down we actually are.  We somehow believe we are alone, that it is our own fault.  We know others don't want to hear about how weary we are because if I am your friend and I hear you are weary it might call attention to my own pain, my own despair.  We also live in a culture that discourages talking about it.  All the self help books talk about positive thinking, banishing negativity, remaining positive, facing our fear.  Some of that is helpful, a reminder that we have more strength than we might imagine.  On the other hand, it reinforces the belief that if we could just be more positive we would not be so weary.  

I am weary.  I have a wife in pain, in pain everyday and we don't have the financial resources to get her fully diagnosed or even have her on all her medications. I need to earn more income because I am only working half time and I need a full time salary. And I don't even know that I "should" post this post because most people would rather talk about anything other than money, or financial hardship. We are more silent about money than sex. You see in this country if you are anything else other than making it, you are a failure and it is all your fault.  I am not poor, I don't qualify for public assistance. I am a minister, what used to be a solid middle class job, sure clergy complained that they would never make any money doing what they are doing but they did make it. They bought homes, they did take vacations, they had retirement and health care.  They worked full time. Now increasingly salaries are lower, full time jobs are fewer and farther between and student loan debt for those in ministry is sky rocketing.  Yet we don't want to talk about this.  It is too scary for others in similar positions or just a paycheck away from it because if I am struggling, if my family isn't making it then maybe they are only an illness or job loss away from it as well.  We are afraid - afraid of what little we have will vanish. So we are further isolating. We don't talk to each other. We don't join faith communities and when we do, those faith communities all too often offer prosperity gospel or speak not at all to the deep pain and suffering.  As a minister I am not supposed to share how I may be hurting or stressed. Recently, the loss of a colleague has made me re-think how important it may be to open up even when it is scary or others may feel uncomfortable.

I know I am not alone. I think too many people are weary and longing for rest. People are scared and you can hear it on-line, in person.  People are isolating because they are afraid, they are tired and for too long they have been asked to keep going on their own.  Because in our American individualistic culture, you cannot be tired and if you are not making it is your fault. You must not be working hard enough; you must be lazy.

So we yell at immigrant children arriving here alone and scared, fleeing the violence of drug cartels in oppressive regimes that our U.S. government has supported. We have judges and lawmakers seeking to take away affordable health insurance from hard working people.  We have people hurling unspeakable vile at our President because he is a person of color and yet we live in a "post-racial society"... whatever that means.  We have religious folks caring more about who gets to legally marry who than about why our young people are delaying marriage because they can't afford it.  We have religious folk caring more about unborn fetuses and fertilized eggs than living, breathing babies whose parents struggle to feed them, to house them, and then they get blamed for not being more involved at their child's school.  We tend want to scrutinize every purchase of the poor under the guise of helping them become financially stable but when the rich crash our economy all while collecting their multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses, we bale them out without question. Apparently banks are "too big to fail" and yet my family, and thousands, maybe millions of families are expendable. Yet we blame the poor and the undocumented for the state of our economy instead of laying at the feet of the very wealthy who have made life harder and the American dream more elusive for more and more of us. No wonder so many are weary.

Yes I am weary and I long for rest. I long for this peace that Hebrew and Christian scriptures promise us. The promise that we are not alone. The promise we have not been forgotten that there is a love that holds us and will not let us go.  A love that tells us yes we can go one more day, that it will get better. That there is a better place, a promised land and the only way we will get there is together. Yet to get there together we must be willing to speak the truth of our lives. That truth includes our financial truth.  As long as people like me stay silent, make it look like everything is ok then nothing will change. As a white educated woman I am not supposed to be here. I am supposed to be doing ok.  My family and I are not ok and I know that there are many other families out there losing sleep, weary, worried and feeling very much alone.  We don't want to talk about it.  We are not supposed to talk about it as if our silence will make it less real.  Yet Audre Lorde reminds us that "your silence will not protect you."  

So today I break the silence.  Today I tell you I am weary - weary of not having enough, weary of worrying about how to pay the bills, how to keep food on the table, how to help my partner get the health care she needs. Weary of there never being enough money. Even more weary because this situation has gone on for a long time and seems to be all I think about or talk about with close friends. The long lasting weariness zaps my creativity to make change, jeopardizes health even more and shuts down hope. There I have said it.  There I have spoken it.  Will you think less of me now?  Am I less worthy in your eyes because not only do I not have it, I said it out loud?  I have "come out" as struggling financially, of not knowing how my family is supposed to make it. 

I am weary and I know I am not alone. Maybe all of us who are weary need to come together. Maybe we need to start speaking the truth of how weary we are. Maybe we need to stop pretending, stop hiding, stop thinking we are alone.  Maybe your weariness comes from a chronic illness, a child dealing with addiction, a job that is burning you out, a betrayal in your marriage ... or like me, some combination of things. Maybe the most powerful thing we who are weary can do is to stop the hard work of pretending, of staying silent.  Maybe the most powerful thing we can do is speak the truth.

So, I offer an invitation to we who are weary, please share your story.  Please let this be a place where we can break the silence and shame that often surround our weariness. Perhaps, the ministry I wish to be engaged in makes room for being honest about my own life in an effort to allow others to share their stories as they really are. Maybe then we will find the resources, to use the words of James Luther Adams, both human and divine to achieve meaningful change.