By Rev. Laura Robinson
The Year-Three Slump. Or is it a readjustment? A disgruntlement? It’s a three year something.
I was attending a virtual summit put on by the United Church of Christ last week and heard something I hadn’t heard before. Known perhaps, deep in my bones, but not heard spoken aloud or fully acknowledged.
The third year is the hardest.
It’s the hardest year of ministry. Of a relationship. Of a pandemic. It’s the time when all the “pulling together” and “getting along in order to get through” starts to unravel. It is when the visions we thought we all agreed upon start to crack and fray along the edges. When the exhaustion and the frustration start to overwhelm the hope and goodwill.
The third year is a hard time to be in community. A hard time to keep showing up. A hard time to do much more beyond gripe at everyone who is making things harder than they need to be.
But what if it’s also a time of rich discernment?
What if the time when we finally get honest?
Real about our feelings?
Brave enough to begin naming the fears that lie below our complaints?
What if three years is the time when we stop hiding behind politeness and start really living in community?
What if it’s the time we start letting ourselves actually change and be changed by those we’re in communion with?
What if three years is the time we have to dive into our wells of faith and trust that the God of new life might be bringing us somewhere new? And good?
What if three years is the time when things start to get really juicy?
Of course, before they get juicy, they get exhausting. And even if you aren’t in year three in all the ways, you ARE in year three of a pandemic. So give yourself (and your community) a little grace. Take that nap or personal day for a new hike. Pick up that non-work related book. Rant about your council moderator to your dog and cook a big meal for a loved one (like yourself). Soak in all the love and nourishment your soul is needing. Tell yourself, all things considered, you’re really rocking this year three. Remember that things get hardest right before they change and then try to enjoy the ride as best you can.
And of course, if you need a little help, lean on us. Check out the life-giving resources Convergence has to offer. You aren’t alone in this. We’ll make it there together. Take heart, dear one. After all, I’m sure someone out there says year four is a breeze.
This pattern was also what happened after the the 1917 Flu pandemic. For 2 years everyone followed instructions and pulled together. But in year 3 they all just gave up from exhaustion and then experienced one of the worst outbreaks and this was without vaccines!
We in the church are dealing with cumulative issues that have been magnified and accelerated by Covid. The formerly mainline church is in crisis, a full blown crisis and feel somewhat paralyzed by exhaustion and uncertainty.