My seventeen-year-old daughter Riley was in her feelings one afternoon when she dramatically exclaimed that she and one of her friends were “having some challenges.” My eight-year-old son Alex looked at me with concern because he knew how important this friend was to Riley. “What happened?” he asked. “They can’t see each other tonight after all,” I explained. Alex seemed confused, and then he marched up the stairs after Riley. When he came back, he said, “I told her that I’ve studied challenges in Black History Month, and this is not a challenge.” I laughed because he’d put Riley in her place, and Riley actually agreed.
We all need perspective sometimes. This past year, the pandemic created so many hardships and difficulties. And often, during the quarantines, isolation, canceled plans, and abandoned hopes, the anxiety, fear, and frustration in our family bubbled over. Then, we would catch ourselves and remember that it could be so much worse. So many people were suffering, and our issues paled in comparison. We could buck up our spirits, at least temporarily, with reminders rooted in perspective.
And yet, our pain was still real to us, and we could not ignore it. The kids were learning online last spring, missing friends and their activities. We tried to keep our family safe, minimize the disruptions, and keep moving forward. Summer was better, but concerns mounted with Covid surges and going back to school in the fall. My mental and emotional health suffered, and I had to seek more help than usual to stay balanced. While much of the perspective we gained dealt with the larger picture and appreciating our place in it, some of the perspective we found was about the importance of the small, significant ways we interact with one another and our own individual wellbeing.
Both the big and little things matter in life. And God is in the midst of it all. The Psalmist said, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalm 139:7-8. God is with us when we have a broader, more expansive view of our lives and the greater world, and God is with us when we are deep in the muck and cannot see an easy way to climb out. God can show us that we are not as bad off as we think. Alternatively, God can help us acknowledge that we are not doing well and need to change course.
I hope the challenges of the past year will diminish and ultimately vanish as we go through this spring. Even though we hope not to experience another year like this one, we will always face some sort of challenges in life. Some bigger than others. But we must remember that we can always depend on God no matter what, and in the end, that is what really matters.