Archived Opinion

Sitting in the mess can be worth it

Sitting in the mess can be worth it

I’m not the traditional church-going type. “Christianity” is an antiquated, laden term of which I’m not a fan. My faith is unique, evolving. My God is changing and alive with the times. My Bible is a book of stories, metaphors and poetry. It is not a hard and fast guidepost.

I love learning about various religions and the history of the church, but I can be a skeptic when it comes to the intentions of modern-day institutions. God is vibrantly present in my daily life, so I know God is real. Though religion as an umbrella concept can be overwhelming, punitive even, there are certain churches and pastors that mean a lot to me. 

Churches are opening after being mostly shut down or virtual for over a year. Throughout my life, I’ve only attended one church with regularity and that is Long’s Chapel. The people of this church, including former and current pastors, have walked with me through early motherhood, my mom’s death, divorce, moving, job changes, life challenges, new relationships and much more. Former and current pastors, Chris Westmoreland, Tim McConnell, Chuck Wilson and Justin Lowe, were beacons of light during my darkest days of grief. They and my two little boys were the only sources of brightness. Without them, I would have continued to stumble around in the dark. 

I’m also affectionate toward First United Methodist of Waynesville. My boys went to preschool there and continue to participate in activities sponsored by them, such as Wilderness Trail. I mention Long’s Chapel and FUMC by name because both accept people for who they are, flaws and quirks included. They love fiercely and allow me to be who I am, messy faith and all. 

This past Sunday we attended inside church for the first time since early March 2020. I was impressed with Long’s Chapel’s protocol for making attendees feel safe. Pastor Chris’ message resonated with me. The message centered on the story of David and a post-battle victory period where David learns of his best friend’s death. 

David went from the high of winning a battle to the low of losing a brother. He had to somehow readjust to the new normal. Pastor Chris coined these stages as orientation, disorientation and reorientation. In my own life, I’ve walked through these phases time and time again. Beyond that, I couldn’t help but think of all of us when listening to Pastor Chris’ words. 

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The world, especially Americans, went from a place of relative homeostasis (orientation) to significant uncertainty and loss during the pandemic (disorientation) and now we’re in a period of readjustment (reorientation). It’s been a trying year and life may never be as it was before COVID-19. For me, it’s helpful to put a name to the stages we’ve traveled and view each as individual entities with unique effects, responses and layers of growth. 

Church wasn’t my only reminder we’re in a period of reorientation. Saturday morning we walked to Waynesville’s Historic Farmers Market, located in the HART Theatre parking lot. It felt great to see people around one another, enjoying beautiful weather, live music and nature’s bounty. When we arrived, young actors were leaving a Saturday rehearsal for an upcoming stage production of “Sister Act,” another reminder life is slowly returning to some type of normalcy. 

Later that day I attended my older son’s soccer game. It was the first time in many months the athletes played without masks. The decrease in case numbers led Gov. Roy Cooper to remove the mask mandate for kids when playing sports. It made my heart happy to see entire young faces, not simply their eyes.

Saturday evening, a group from The Smoky Mountain News served dinner at Haywood Pathways Center. We wore masks and stayed safe, but nonetheless it was fun to serve and be around new people in our community. Sunday morning as I scrolled through social media, I saw prom photos from the weekend’s festivities, yet another reminder that students are feeling the comforts of normal end-of-year events. 

This place of reorientation is delicate. It feels wonderful to do normal things; yet, we have to remain vigilant and alert. This virus has tricked us before; it can trick us again. 

I didn’t think I’d exit the weekend with a new life principle, but I did. Orientation, disorientation, reorientation. The thing is, we can’t rush through the disorienting moments in an attempt to land in a happier, easier place. We must sit in those uncomfortable messes until we do the work, sort through the feelings and learn the lessons. It’s hard to do. We’ve been doing it for over a year. We are tired. But remember this — when we emerge on the other side, life can be sweeter, but we must allow our eyes to see it, our hearts to feel it. 

(Susanna Shetley is an editor, writer and digital media specialist for The Smoky Mountain News, Smoky Mountain Living, and Mountain South Media. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Leave a comment

3 comments

  • Sorry my dear, but you have a false sense of security that masks will protect you. Just as folks who feel that a vaccine that still remains untested for the long term effects will protect you.

    posted by Cloyd Jones

    Monday, 05/10/2021

  • Such a great explanation of our times for over a year. Suzanna, you did an excellent job writing this. Enjoyed it

    posted by Peggy Melville

    Monday, 05/10/2021

  • Very nice

    posted by Cecile Knox Medford

    Saturday, 05/08/2021

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