Something the great Annie Dillard once wrote has been rattling around my head this past week. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
These days are different, to be sure, but they are part of the accumulation of our lifetime. They may be entirely different from what we had planned before the pandemic, but these are, nevertheless, the days that have been given to us. They are part of our sum of days. So it is up to us to spend them in such a way that they add up to the life we want to live.
Thinking in this way is helping me worry less and enjoy more, even in the middle of these trying circumstances. I have been able to focus on the gift of spending more time with my girls, including the privilege of helping them with their schoolwork. I get to ride bikes with them every day, and the last few days that’s happened beneath glorious sunshine. Melody and I are cooking together, which is something I know I will look back upon later with gladness. I’m also able to meet with leaders (remotely!), prepare sermons and classes, plan worship services, find ways to help people, and pray several times throughout the day. It’s not the way I would have expected to spend these days, especially so close to the usual frenzy of Holy Week, but it is adding up to a life – a life I’m grateful to have.
It is one of my greatest hopes that we can do more than cope in these strange days. They may be lived in the shadow of sickness and death, but we follow a Lord who knows the way through such valleys, and that means these days are more than a burden to endure. So, seek ways to spend them so that they add up to the life you desire, a life you can look back upon with gratitude.
Speaking of looking upon something with gratitude, I am in a state of awe at the service of health care workers. They are showing Christ to me in the midst of a terrible ordeal. It occurs to me that, whenever our nation engages in armed conflict, we pour out our thanks and praise upon our armed service men and women. We put out signs and wear ribbons and stop them in airports so we can tell them how grateful we are for their service. Our society gushes with pride and respect, as they will head towards danger so that danger will remain far from us.
Friends, we owe our doctors, nurses, and first responders that same sort of thanks and praise. We are in a great battle, a battle for health and life, and the people on the front line of keeping us safe are these brave women and men. While I have the luxury of staying home with my wife and children, they remain at hospitals around the world to treat the tidal wave of infected and sick people. While I go to meetings on Zoom, they go to bedsides of the sick and dying. Every day they get closer to danger so that danger will remain far from us.
They deserve all that we can offer them in response, beginning with our prayers. Pray for them, friends, as you pray for soldiers who head off to war. Pray for them with the same fervency and conviction you would pray for someone deployed to the battlefront. Pray for them to be brave and smart, to deploy all their skill and ability, and to be shielded from harm. And, while we’re at it, please pray for them to have all the tools they need to conduct this fight, for we have sent far too many of them into a proverbial firefight with little more than water pistols. So pray that the engines of our nation will turn so that we give them the equipment they need to do the job we’ve asked them to do.
I’m praying for them, and I’m praying for you, too. God is with us, dear friends, so do not lose heart. Hold fast to hope, and hold onto Jesus, because even when we don’t, he knows the way.
Fr. Casey became the fourth rector of Transfiguration in October 2014 after having served churches in Rhode Island and Houston. He is married to Mtr. Melody Shobe, also an Episcopal priest, and they have two daughters, Isabelle and Adelaide. Fr. Casey grew up in Temple, Texas, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. His Master of Divinity was earned at Virginia Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee). He loves playing golf, road cycling, hiking, brewing beer, and working in his yard. You can contact Father Casey by email.