There Will Always Be a Crisis
The Radical Politics of Finding Sanity, Grounding, and Grace in a Chaotic World
There has always been a crisis. There will always be a crisis until God reconciles the world to God’s self. Until that time comes, there will be crisis after crisis.
In these days, it’s absurd to simply say that there is a crisis. There seems to be a crisis every 24 hours, if we’re lucky. Some days, the crises seem to pile one on top of the other into a fantastic heap of dung. I wish I were kidding when I recall that early one morning in July of 2017, I was checking my Twitter feed, which was filled with the quotidian snark in the first months of the current administration. I decided to get cleaned up and prepared for the day. When I returned to my Twitter feed not more than an hour later, I saw that this administration made a series of horrifically transphobic tweets, alighting social media into a protest against the dehumanizing policies coming from the Twitter account of an unprecedented president.
That day, and the epiphany it provoked, is set in my mind because I so clearly felt the world rapidly changing moment by moment. It was as if I had stepped into the shower in a world going one direction, and upon exiting the shower, the world had spun in an entirely different and destructive direction. In this world, the days bleed together as we experience crisis after crisis that threatens the dignity and wellbeing of vulnerable populations. In the multitude of crises, I am terrified of being pulled in so many directions with each and every crisis. If I try to address each crisis as it bleeds into the next, I will bleed out. All of it pools into a greater realization: There has always been a crisis. Trying to address each and every crisis as it comes along only creates more chaos.
There has always been a crisis, and we are now living in a time where we have constant and consistent access to information. The crises being revealed have happened throughout the course of history, yet to have them happen in this day and age? Many people shake their heads, “No, those were events of years past, that should not be happening now. We’re much better people—more civilized, more capable of doing good.”
What is happening is an apocalypse, a constant revealing over, and over, and over again that there has always been a crisis.
It’s not just on social media, though. These crises are taking place within our churches, within our communities of faith, within our friend groups, and even within our families. These crises, whether they be every 24 hours or through a realization that there has always been a crisis, it’s taking a toll on who we are and how we show up in the world.
I attend a an interfaith community organizing group in the San Francisco Bay Area every month to plan actions and to participate, and doing my level best to actively engage in steps we as a community can take to fight against “powers and principalities.” At every meeting, there is a long list of needs to be met within the community. There is a need for monetary resources to meet the ever-growing bond amounts for detained immigrants. There is a need to meet with elected officials to boldly state that campaign promises have not been met, that constituents and residents within their jurisdiction are being negatively impacted by those wielding power which abuses and harms. There is a need to tell stories, to bring flesh to the words that cannot fully articulate what is happening to actual human beings in the world.
We meet as a small community, believing in a God of abundance that all these needs will be met. Just as there has always been a crisis, there have also always been needs to be fulfilled. We turn to an abundant God to guide us to fulfilling the needs. Still, even within this trust that God is present within our suffering, month after month has revealed crisis after crisis.
The organizer who brings us together reminded us recently that we come together as a community. In this gathering, we also needed to remember to celebrate the little victories, lest we become overwhelmed by crises and needs. Yet, even in trying to remember abundance and celebration, there came a breaking point in one of our recent meetings. Exhaustion led to filters breaking down among community members, which then developed into frustration and anger directed toward the organizer. This then led to tears, which resulted in a tiny apocalypse of sorts, the community members staring blankly at one another, realizing how exhausted and overwhelmed we are with the list of ever-growing crises.
We took a moment of silence, recognizing the need to truly breathe, to conspire with one another in hope, to be present with one another even in the midst of our seemingly endless fatigue. We realized that there will always be a crisis. A moment that passed between all of us, the frustration—one not yet fully acknowledged by the community—in which by being broken apart we were perhaps being broken open to a new way of being in the midst of so much chaos.
There will always be a crisis. Yet the questions I’ve been pondering since that tense meeting are not only how do we respond, but also, how do we stay sane and grounded in the midst of orchestrated chaos that seeks to tear communities apart, especially communities rooted in faith? I’ve returned to scripture over and over, desperately seeking an example of Hebrew prophets, from the uncoordinated and sometimes overconfident disciples, from the rebellious words of St. Paul, and to a defiant Jesus.
I’ve had to remind myself time and time again that Jesus had to seek time to pray on his own. He needed to rest at the most inconvenient times and places. He also took the time to openly challenge those around him, questioning who would truly be at his right and left sides when it mattered the most. He openly lamented, wondering why he was forsaken by his own Father. There was always a crisis.
But it’s napping in the boat while being tossed in the waves that continues to call out to me in this place and time. Jesus, fast asleep, as the disciples are frightened for their lives crying out, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
I’m ashamed to admit that while in seminary, I would be the person making snarky comments when professors talked about self-care. I thought of self-care as a frivolous practice—getting a mani-pedi followed by a massage followed by a facial. But, I thought so very differently about self-care when I found myself in a hospital bed, the people I considered to be my community not even knowing that I had disappeared from my life and ministry for days.
“Peace! Be still!” Jesus called out to the winds, to the sea, and almost certainly to the disciples whose fear, whose hyper-absorption in the crisis du jour kept them from taking the break their ministry required. In an attempt to make it to the other side, we may have to take that inconvenient moment to breathe, to recalibrate, and to rest—even as the waves roil all around us.
In these days of overcomplicated situations, I find that I need to return to what grounds me, however basic that grounding may be. I realize that I am not called to fall asleep at the community organizing meetings when the situation becomes difficult and unfiltered. But I also know that while there will always be a crisis, I need to learn to depend upon others, just as others will need to depend upon me. I wish I could share Audre Lorde’s wisdom with that snarky seminarian in me, in the midst of community organizing, in the midst of the crisis of the day: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Self-care is not something to be commodified. Instead, if viewed through the community that forms the body of Christ, it becomes a communal act of resistance. As St. Paul reminds us, not everyone can be a foot or an ear or a hand. In that same sentiment, everyone has to find their particular time and mode of respite when they can, believing that the different parts of the body, the different parts of the community, must care for and support one another.
What I came to realize for myself at that uncomfortable community organizing meeting was that we’re all facing an exhaustion that can make our very bones dry. If we can rely on one another, also seeing the Lord who gives us sustenance, we can conspire to be present with one another. We can also truly take to heart what it mean to “give one another a break” even as our lives continue to be broken open. There is always a crisis. There will always be a crisis.