As several states have begun to reopen over the last week, I have started to see photos across social media of people returning to shopping, appointments, etc.
I have felt an initial twinge when I witness these images. My thoughts buzz with
“I wanna do that too.” Perhaps because we have been at this sheltering time for longer than a couple of weeks, the feeling was short-lived. Don’t get me wrong, I would welcome fewer restrictions but I feel settled in waiting until it is deemed safer. There is also a corner of my mind and heart that doesn’t want to rush back into a “business as usual” mindset. I don’t want to go back to being consumed with consuming.
Which has caused me to think a lot about the word “remain”.
- to be a part not destroyed, taken, or used up
- to be something yet to be shown, done, or treated (it remains to be seen)
- to stay in the same place or with the same person or group
- To continue to exist especially after similar or related people or things have ceased to exist
- to continue unchanged
This word couldn’t be more fitting for this current passage of time.
When I first began to think about the word remain and its definitions, my thoughts centered around what does it mean to stay in the same place with the same people?
I pondered what does it look like to remain when the world and future remain to be seen? But now, my thoughts rush towards what does it mean to be people who remain while others are released? After all those questions, the bottom line is simply how do we remain, day after day, no matter what anyone is doing to the left or the right?
The Benedictine monks take a vow of stability. This word stability means to be firm, to stand fast, to endure, to persevere, and to be rooted. It is the action of staying put, remaining steadfast, and faithful to the situation in which God has placed. It is persistently sticking with a situation, with people, and with God. Monastic stability is a commitment to a place and a group of people in the belief that this place and these people will help them to find God.
We may have not taken a vow but this stretched out time has given the gift of stability. It takes new eyes and perspective to find it.
This month marks 27 years of living in our home. This is actually time, not COVID-19 time! Carl and I have often looked at our decision to “stay put” on the same street in the same house as practicing stability. We have made an intentional decision to stay and remain nestled among this particular set of people whether they leave or stay. It’s felt like a unique opportunity to firmly plant ourselves along our avenue. We only have to look at the maple tree we planted during our first year. It possesses deep roots and continues to reach up and out as a visual reminder of our nearly three decades of dwelling. There are so many stories and memories we share about the time in this house on this street. Oh, the dramatic happenings along this block I could tell you about but the ones which stand out are the births, deaths, feuds, and forgiveness. It’s part of the history that grows from remaining.
This crisis is becoming a part of our individual and collective histories. Think of the conversations to be had while we remain together. The opportunity to linger longer over words instead of rushing off to the next obligation is precious. As home time has lengthened, hopefully, the guards surrounding our hearts have been lowered. Maybe what used to occupy our time has now dimmed, ceased, or proven unsatisfactory. So, we continue to remain in our homes because no matter how challenging, we believe it is for the good and that good things are on the horizon even if it isn’t visible.
I planted three peonies a few springs ago. I scroll Instagram and see photos of peonies heavy-laden with blossoms. I can almost smell the scent. Then I wander to the three places mine are planted and see healthy plants but not a bud in sight. What should I do? Should I dig and throw them in the compost? No, I will wait and allow them to remain and bloom at the appointed time despite my impatience and longing. I believe the wait will bring greater joy than today, it’s a hard-fought for hope. When I am tempted to not securely believe this sentiment, I look to the right where poppies planted years ago are covered in deep orange crepe paper-like flowers. The year before a strong breeze sent the petals of one solitary flower into orbit.
What has bloomed in your life during this time?
What blooms are you waiting for?
What seeds could be planted in spite of hard soil and wait for a harvest?
May we be people who remain despite all unseen and unknown.
May we see this time of staying put as a gift to draw closer to one another.
May we grow deeper roots with the people who surround us.
May we reach out to others if we live alone and seek solidarity in remaining.
May we keep our eyes on where we are planted and not across the fence.
And may we know it is not too late to decide what will remain in us and what
can be released from us once restrictions are lifted.