Do you remember the stories of medical staff who were living in caravans outside their houses, or hotel rooms for weeks on end in order to protect their families and friends? Those images of isolating medical parents with hands pressed against windows to ‘touch’ their children? That was 18 months ago.
We’re now into a third wave of Covid. A few days ago I was reading an article online from an ICU consultant (anonymous) about the unrelenting pressure that our NHS has been under for these last 18 months. I was shocked by the figure of 5.3 million backlog of cases on top of an increasing Covid workload.
There is no let up for exhausted hospital staff. Covid wards require a whole new level of extra procedures and care. The emotional toll of caring for gravely ill people without the support of their family and friends has placed an added burden on staff. Many are falling by the wayside unable to continue physically and emotionally with the fear, the demands on their resilience, strength, mental health.
How sacrificial must sacrificial be?
It’s possibly a question the disciples wondered about. They had just returned from an exhilarating but exhausting mission to the villages and towns, preaching, healing, teaching in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. They needed space and time to rest, to debrief, to make sense of their experiences. Jesus knows this and takes them away on a retreat. They get to the deserted location to find that the crowds have got there before them.
We read that Jesus’ guts were unsettled, were roiling, with compassion. You know that anxious feeling deep in your belly when you’re confronted with pain and distress and you respond viscerally to suffering. That is Jesus when faced with the needy crowds, he feels deeply, his entrails are disturbed.
Crowds were there not because they wanted to become disciples of Jesus. People came because they had heard about an effective local healer. Who would not grab the opportunity for their loved one to be healed? This didn’t necessarily mean they committed to becoming a full on disciple of Jesus.
The disciples were done in. No more resources give out. Compassion fatigue had set in. They needed rest. But not just yet. People had to be fed, a storm on the lake weathered, more people tended to and healed before rest would come.
I’m not advocating working yourself into the ground. Burnout is bad news for everyone. It takes a long time to recover from burnout. Lots of people are collateral damage to burn out.
Rest was promised and was coming, but for the moment the disciples and Jesus needed to persevere for compassion’s sake. There are moments when we need to persevere, to dig deep and to keep loving. To keep doing those things which are God’s love in action. We need to keep being Jesus’ hands, feet and voice where we are. We need to trust God for strength, to take moments of down time, for rest, and for the moment leave the tasks that are not so necessary: A little more dust in the house won’t matter, and another meal of beans on toast will not harm.
It seems that wherever Jesus and the disciples went, wholeness, healing, God’s Shalom, followed. Whole communities were blessed with healing and we don’t know what their ongoing relationship with Jesus was? We’ve heard of collateral damage in war. We, the church, are at war with evil. Would that through our perseverance, were the beautiful source of collateral healing in our communities for Jesus’ sake.
- I wonder what areas of devotion or service you need to persevere in at this time?
- I wonder what areas of community life need the Church’s compassion, love and service in your place?