The following is based on a interview Alex Cameron gave at Cornerstone Anglican Church Portage Park in Chicago, IL in November 2021.
Alex, what would you say about interior life in the pandemic? How can we care for ourselves well?
We’ve all developed some habits that helped us cope through the pandemic. We have gotten used to some of those habits, in, perhaps, some bad ways.
For a long time I never left my home. I got used to not leaving my home. Then, when I was able to leave my home and I actually got to go to an event—it was a weekend retreat, I was with about fifty people for a number of days—it exhausted me. I wasn’t used to it. It’s going to take us some time to get readjusted to re-engaging with people the same way that we used to. For people like me, who are a little more introverted, that’s gonna be harder.
But we should do the hard things, because human community, interaction, being in community, being in relationship, is how we’re designed. God says it is not good for us to be alone. One of our great challenges is to reassert what community looks like as we move forward. Emotional health is only emotional health as we are healthy in community.
As we do that, there's a few things we should bear in mind.
We should remember that there is a profound difference between technically having the time and having the capacity. We often only think about the former, which is fair. “I could do this, I could accomplish this, or I could get enough sleep” (though sleep is not always there for the bidding). We’re in a culture that says, “You can do anything, you can be anything,” or even “All things are possible through Christ Jesus” (which of course is true). But one of the things we need to rediscover is that they are all possible through Christ Jesus, not necessarily through me. He is God and I am not. He is infinite and I am not. However much time I have, I only have so many resources, so much emotional energy—whatever you want to call it— to expend. It’s very important for us to pay attention to what our resources are. Whether or not I have the time to do it, do I have the capacity to do it?
Often "Do I have the capacity?" feels like a guess. It's really a sophisticated emotional question. But if we pay attention, we can start to say after the fact, "Okay, that was too much. I didn't have the capacity."
I love to teach and to preach. I know that when I’m on to preach this coming Sunday and I’m thinking, “Oh, I wish I didn’t have to do this,” that’s a clue. It’s an indicator, something I love I don’t have the energy for. I need to pay attention to that and find ways to either rest or sleep or recharge, in whatever ways I need to recharge.
The problem with that, of course, is you actually have to pay attention. You actually have to notice your emotional state, your physical state, what you feel. Sometimes we’re not very good at that. We’re good at pushing and keeping going, and all that sort of stuff.
One thing to look for is whether we're worn out. When I went to that retreat, back in June, I really, really enjoyed it. When I got home on Saturday afternoon, I sat on the couch and read a book. I ended up falling asleep. That was my clue. It’s 3:00 on a Saturday. I don’t normally nap at 3:00 on a Saturday. This took more out of me than I thought.
The other thing to look for is resentment. Resentment is a unique thing. It’s not the same as “I don’t particularly want to do this, but I realize it has to be done" or "Part of me wants to do this but part of me does not." (I never want to do my taxes but they have to be done.) It’s not that. Resentment is this grumble that happens in us. It’s a different experience. It looks a lot like anger, but it has an element of "This is unfair," or "How could they ask this of me?" Paying attention to our resentment is not about dwelling on that grumble. It is about listening to the grumble and saying, “What is this telling me? What is too much? What should I change?”
Eventually, as we get better at it, we start "guessing better." Someone asks us to do something and we think, "This is just the kind of thing I used to say yes to, but I'm always exhausted and resentful afterwords."
If we’re smart, we’ll pay attention to what our body and our emotions are telling us, what—ultimately—God is telling us in our limitedness, in our creatureliness, that we can’t be and do everything.