It Is OK to Focus on One Fire

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor whose writings and talks I often find beneficial. She is doubtless not everyone’s cup of tea, but then again, none of us are.

She wrote a piece last week (it came out while I was on retreat, hence my delay in getting to it) that I think is a useful one for all of us during this time of heightened anxiety about COVID, the effects of climate change and the various other issues we are bombarded with day after day.

In it, she shared three discernment questions she learned from one of her teachers, Suzanne Stabile (not me, but someone I am sometimes confused with): “(1) What’s MINE to do, and what’s NOT mine to do?; (2) What’s MINE to say and what’s NOT mine to say?; (3) What’s MINE to care about and what’s NOT mine to care about?”

The questions are helpful reminder at a time, as Bolz-Weber suggests, there are so many people suggesting on various social media platforms about one issue or another, “If you don’t care about X, you are part of the problem.” The difficulty is that there are so many X’s that none of us has the bandwith to deal with them all. As she writes, “my emotional circuit breaker keeps overloading because the hardware was built for an older time.”

So she suggests we remember:

1. We are still living through a global pandemic and that means the baseline of anxiety and grief is higher than ever and shared by everyone. 2. The world is on fire literally and metaphorically. But 3. I only have so much water in my bucket to help with the fires. The more exposure I have to the fires I have NO WATER to fight, the more likely I am to get so burned, and inhale so much smoke that I cannot help anymore with the fires close enough to fight once my bucket is full again. 

So I try and tell myself that It’s ok to focus on one fire. 

It’s ok to do what is YOURS to do. Say what’s yours to say. Care about what’s yours to care about. 

So, not an invitation to put one’s head in the sand and do nothing and care about nothing, but to focus on what we can do, as well as to be a bit gentle with ourselves.

I encourage you to read her entire reflection, which is here.

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