This week I was chatting my phone with a parishioner here, a person who lives alone and tended to be a bit of a solitary person. It was a bit of a pastoral call, just to see how she was doing, and after a bit of conversation she said, “but how are YOU doing, Father Rob, because I would think that for an extrovert this whole thing must be much harder on you than it is on me.”
Which was both a kind and insightful thing to ask, because for those of us who are more inclined to draw personal energy for human interaction, especially face-to-face, it has been a challenging time. Moreover, as we are likely entering into a period of increased isolation, not only from the distancing protocols but also from the weather, the holidays (and lack of traditional travel and family gatherings, not to mention worship), the potential for experiencing emotional and spiritual loneliness is great.
Aside from the more practical, granular ways to address that, I think an under-appreciated coping mechanism that is foundational to good emotional and spiritual health is self-awareness. You can be depressed without intellectually grasping the fact that you are depressed. You can be ornery and out of sorts with others without realizing you are so. And you can miss the fact that you are, in various degrees of success, attempting to address those issues without even knowing you are doing it. But having that sense of self-awareness is such a gift to navigating this upcoming season.
So let’s talk about your prayer life. We engage in what’s called “intercessory prayer” as part of our repertoire of prayer topics. These are prayers where we, quite simply, ask God for something. For wise leadership in our nation, for the poor and deprived, for the sick and the recently deceased, and for those with “special intentions.” Let’s consider adding to those intercessions a prayer for self-awareness, to have God reveal to you, well, you. Our relationship with God is one where we grow to a greater understanding of God, but also a greater understanding of our relationship with God, which in turn is about understanding ourselves.
A good option, if you are looking for a place to start, is the prayer “For Quiet Confidence” in the BCP (p. 832)
O God of Peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might your spirit lift us, we pray to you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Yours in Christ,