“Comfort, Comfort All My People”, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, “Down in the River to Pray”, “This Little Light of Mine” – these are all songs on my comfort playlist. If my soul is feeling weary or I am feeling frightened, I turn on the playlist with that includes these songs and listen to it on repeat.
This is not my only playlist. I have songs for when I’m feeling hopeful and happy. I have songs for when I’m angry. I have songs for when I’m mad. And I have playlists that mix them all together for when I’m feeling the reality that life is rarely all one emotion or another, but rather many of them all at once.
Today’s readings give us a glimpse into what might have been on the playlist of our ancestors in faith. The Psalms are thought to have been the text of music that was sung at the Temple and for religious rituals of the ancient Israelites. What I love about the Psalms is their variety. They provide us with a mixture of reflection on human experience and musing on God’s relationship with us. They come from a variety of emotional head spaces including praise, lament, thanksgiving, and trust.1 I think of them as giving us permission to express ourselves to God and can also provide us with hopeful reminders of what is possible.
In an article published in September, entitled “How to Power Through the Six Month Wall” published in September by Aisha Ahmad, Ahmad says this:
In any sustained crisis, the six month mark is difficult. Most of us have no lived through pandemic lockdowns and restrictions for half a year, and have relearned how to do our grocery shopping, hold work meetings, and even teach courses. Yet, just as we seem to have adjusted to this global disaster, many of us feel as though we have suddenly hit a brick wall. Right now, you may feel enervated and despairing.2
Do not despair: the six-month wall is harsh, but also temporary. How many of us are feeling right now is not representative of what our autumn and winter will be like. This is a normal phase in adapting to sustained disaster conditions, and this dip usually breaks naturally in about four to six weeks. Your mind and body are simply asking you for respite, exactly on schedule. The six-month wall is not a sign you are lost or failing. It just means you are tired.
Ahmad suggests that we can surmount the wall by giving ourselves, “a figurative ‘shore leave’.” She suggests books or movies in addition to self-care practices like exercise, meditation, and a daily walk.
Thinking about the suggestion for a figurative shore leave, I though why not create a playlist for yourself modeled after the range of emotions found in the Psalms. I don’t mean that you have to have actual Psalms on your playlist, but just that when you chose your playlist remember that the Psalms tell us that our whole range of emotions connect us to God. So with the reminder that our sacred book documents not just joy and praise for how God is working in the world, but also lament and despair – pick songs that resonate with all of those emotions for your list and give yourself permission to take time just to be with the music.
Ahmad reminds readers in her article that while we’re hitting the wall is not a time to expect yourself to be productive, instead it’s a time to lower your expectations and ride things out. A moment of respite. Use your playlist to take respite.
The good news according to Ahmad,
The dip is not permanent, nor will it define you through this period of adversity. If you give yourself a moment of respite, you will be across in no time.
So may we continue to gather to worship God. To offer praise and thanksgiving. To recognize lament and despair. To shake our fists in anger. To wrap ourselves in love as we make our way to the next phase of the new normal. The good news according to our faith, our sacred story tells us that time and time again, our ancestors faced figurative six-month walls and they have made it to the other side, we can too.