I thought the craziest thought the other day. Leaving the grocery store again after having to pep talk myself into going, I notice all of our differences. I sit and watch the other shoppers’ arrivals and departures. I inventory the wearers of masks in comparison to the full faces.
“Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!”
Psalm 90:13 ESV
I notice the efficiency adapted by the store. I am grateful for the smile of the one who wipes down my cart. But, I notice it is ambivalent, the welcome that ushers me to be the next shopper in.
The same expression, same as my thought,
“How long? How long?”
I wear my mask although I don’t like it. I feel it is the respectful of others thing to do.
But, it makes me feel horrible, makes my chest ache in the way that only sparks worry and imagination of diagnosis. The grocery store is symbolic, I decide.
Symbolic of our differences as expressed on masked and unmasked faces.
I imagine God looking down, all of us scattered and separate and still learning this “togethering”.
I notice an older man dressed casually in shorts because our weather is splendid. His eyes meet mine as if me being female reminds him of his promise to his wife. He reluctant huffs as he pulls up his mask. Another older gentleman and the most crisply dressed older woman walk in separately, heads held high, maskless.
They make eye contact with me and their reaction is a mixture of life lived wisdom and pity. I wonder what they think of me.
This may not be a popular noticing of mine I am sharing here.
The people who are wearing the masks, including me, appear to be so much more afraid than the ones whose faces are free.
I’m very fond of a word that describes our expressions. It is the best word I know of as the gauge of feelings, outward indications that bubble up from our souls.
It is countenance. I consider it a tool. Stand all alone and face your bathroom mirror. What do your eyes tell you?
The curve of the lines that border your mouth? The rise of your cheeks towards the meeting of your lashes?
What do you see that cannot be hidden? Often, I’d use this assessment when I worked with troubled women. I knew it was truthful and easy to do. I’d tell them, look in the mirror, you’ll be able to see the truth of how you’re doing, what you’re believing, what you’re trying to disguise.
I know this to be true.
I drive home with my groceries feeling more curious. Curious over the choices of some to go without masks. Were they confident or just stubborn? Are they more brave than the rest of us or do they just feel the masks do no good, what’ll happen will happen anyway.
And the ones like me who wore the masks, are we afraid or are we respectfully cautionary? Are we just a “follow alonger”?
I don’t know. Once home, I’m better. I flicked the mask from my face before I even put my cart away. I know it has a purpose; but, I despise the fear it represents to me.
I wake and I open my journal and I think of how scattered my days have been feeling. How some days I see calm as my countenance in the mirror, others a questioning blank gaze.
I ask God to keep me gentle, to keep me observant, to keep me intrigued by the expressions of others.
I ask God to keep me noticing, to be my teacher, to turn me towards the mirror in my car when I’m afraid to get out, to show me my countenance and help me fix it before entering. To allow the light to be shown through my eyes when there’s nothing else uncovered.
I ask God to preserve the gentleness of me, to keep me meek not distressed and bitterly questioning.
These things we do until we realize they don’t serve us well and that we really are together even when we are “un-together” here.
To help me consider the countenance of others although not fully seen. To acknowledge we all struggle differently, many of us numb by now to the fearful pandemic, many of us walking around in what feels like armor. We do what we can and we tell ourselves to stay in our bubble, ignore the statistics and predictions and hope tomorrow will be different.
What are we that He is mindful of us? We are His creation and we matter. To God, to each other.
Our eyes cast down, our chests heavy with question. He knows. Or our confidence in pushing onward moment by moment til this storm has subsided or at least become more understandable.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.”
Psalms 42:5 KJV
We turn our attention towards the hope and the laments, the questions without answer, the admission of troubled mental struggles and errant behaviors, the book called Psalms.
It is there we find relatable stories, honest words of David, of singers and psalmists, that we find our countenance changers, our togetherness with others and with God.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Psalm 103:1-5 ESV
We are together even in our un-togetherness. We are covered although scattered in our thoughts and souls.
We are all together in God’s strong hold. We are together with both masked and unmasked faces God sees fit to have intersect us. I hope my eyes contain just a bit of Him, the one who sees us all, unmasked, scattered and yet, together souls.
Be well. Find your mirror.
Continue and believe.
I’m linking up with others who are telling stories in and for these times. View more here: https://marygeisen.com/if-i-only-had-more-time/