Moving On From a Desolate Place

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. – Matthew 14:13a

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be." - Anne Frank

Like many of you, I am feeling a range of negative emotions this morning. I slept for just a couple of hours. I am shocked that every single poll got it so wrong. I am deeply disappointed that we are not celebrating the historic milestone of having our first woman President – a woman who I identify with, who has committed her entire career to public service and trying to make a difference for children and families. But mostly, I am saddened that so many of my fellow Americans elected a person who has openly disparaged or threatened over the course of his campaign: women, poor people, persons with disabilities, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, African Americans and Hispanic Americans. I feel unsafe. I am worried for the safety of my students and that Trump supporters who are bigots see a Trump presidency as legitimizing their view that they are better than people of a different race. I am worried about the well-being of the poor in my city and state – one of the poorest in the nation. I am worried for people who are sick or have pre-exiting conditions in the face of a Republican-controlled executive and legislative branch who promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I am worried about our troops abroad and about Syrians who are more vulnerable under a U.S. leader who has an affinity for Vladimir Putin.

I could worry myself sick. But that wouldn’t help anyone.

So how do I keep from being overcome with worry? Where do I go from here? There will be a lot of soul-searching and public discussion on what went wrong and how we can re-unite the country over the next days, weeks, and months. I was originally preparing this as a post on examples of Jesus’ progressive views of women in the Bible. But I will save that post for another day. What I want to focus on today is how you can take care of you in the days to come.

What did Jesus do when he received bad news? How did he respond to grief? When Jesus’ beloved friend and cousin John the Baptist was killed, “he withdrew…to a desolate place by himself” to pray and to be with his father. It didn’t work out right away, though. A crowd of people pressed in on him, asking him to teach them. Jesus had compassion on the crowd and taught them. But when he had finished teaching, he again withdrew by himself, telling the disciples he would catch up with them later. (The disciples didn’t know he would catch up with them by walking on water, but that’s another story.)

Jesus knew he needed time and space to work through his feelings of sadness and grief if he was going to continue his important work. So I invite you today to do as Jesus did and practice self-care.

Be kind to yourself. Take time to rest. Remember to eat and drink plenty of water. Connect with your friends and family members. Meditate, sit in silence, write in a journal. Go for a walk or exercise. Be patient with yourself and your feelings. Acknowledge the ways in which this event is recalling old hurts and past experiences in your life that still need healing. Plan a fun or distracting activity with friends. Pray. Pray by yourself and pray with others. Practice gratitude: take some time to write down a few things you’re thankful for each day.

If you feel tempted to medicate in ways that are harmful to you like turning to drinking, overeating, retail therapy, etc. talk to a trusted friend about your struggles and ask them to hold you accountable to finding more healthy ways to express your feelings. If you find yourself taking out your feelings negatively on those around you, take some time to be by yourself or fast from social media for a few days. If you discover after a few days or weeks that you’re feeling stuck and unable to move forward on your own, consider setting up an appointment with a therapist

Remember, though Jesus went to a desolate place, he wasn’t alone (he was with his father) and he didn’t stay there. Like Jesus, you have important work to do and people who depend on you. You will be better able to meet those demands if you take the time to take care of you.

If you have any other suggestions on how to practice self-care, I would be grateful if you shared them in the comment section below.

Thank you, as always, for reading my blog. Next Wednesday I will be traveling to visit friends and family for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration and I may be unable to post. Until next time, take care, my beautiful friends.

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