By Steve Matthews, FaithX Senior Associate Consultant
What? Can you believe it has been almost two years since we first heard the words “COVID-19?” So much has changed, so many lives lost, so many fatigued health-care workers, school teachers, parents… pastors and priests. It has definitely been a loooong season calling us to adapt to new challenges. My feelings can be summarized in the poem below. I read it for the first time a couple of years ago and recently resurrected it for a staff devotion:
By David Budbill
Han Shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:
We’re just like bugs in a bowl. All day going around never leaving their bowl.
I say, That’s right! Every day climbing up
the steep sides, sliding back.
Over and over again. Around and around.
Up and back down.
Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands,
cry, moan, feel sorry for yourself.
Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs.
Say, Hey, how you doin’?
Say, Nice Bowl!
In the last two years, life and ministry has often made me feel like a bug in a bowl. I think many of us thought that increased vaccinations and decreased infection was going to free us… like we were finally going to get out of the bowl. We were so close, and then the Delta variant hit, and back we slid.
What I like about this poem is that it really is all about perspective. Who is with us here? Who has kept us company, cared for us, loved us, showed us the way? Even if Zoom is the bowl, I wonder what new avenues this has opened to us. What can we see now that we could not see two years ago?
And what kind of bugs are we anyway? Pardon the cliché, but what if, like the picture above, we are just biding our time until we turn from a yellow and black worm into a monarch butterfly able to fly out of the bowl… and even back into it if we need or want to. Yes, we continue to wonder who we are becoming as we deal with COVID, but if we stop to look around, can we see and celebrate our adaptability?
FaithX has always been about helping faith groups adapt to changing and challenging times in faithful and hopeful ways. Currently, we are exploring how we might measure the vitality of our online communities. Let’s celebrate our adaptability and build on it! We are also looking at new measures of vitality that go beyond numbers. If you haven’t already, check out our Congregational Vitality Assessment that is available for free (there is a judicatory version as well). We want to accompany you and resource you with data and consulting in ways that shift perspective toward hope and possibility.
Evolution always favors the adaptable, so let’s continue to say “nice bowl.” Let’s say “how you doing?” to our companions. It’s a practice that will serve as well as test drive our budding wings.