by Wanda Frenchman
The song, “Times like these” by the popular rock band, Foo Fighters, came to life for me recently as I heard it performed live at a concert—one of the few that I attended since the pandemic began. It is also one of my top ten favorite songs of all time because of its message of hope and compassion. As a music fan, attending the live concert held special meaning. The love I have for this song reminds me of what it means to experience pure joy.
The feeling of joy is something I haven’t dared to experience for many months for fear that I would be disrespecting the many lives lost over the last 24 months to Covid-19.
I experience joy in the company of good friends, watching a beautiful Arizona sunset, or even listening to the sound of our Native drums and singers in our dance arenas and at our ceremonies. I feel this kind of joy on Easter morning, at sunrise, when I know that Jesus has indeed been resurrected.
Joy in the Bible
Joy is mentioned over and over in scripture. I chose to focus on this passage from Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in affliction, persevere in prayer.”
I feel as if there was an appropriate passage to describe the situation of the last two years; this is it.
These words are part of a letter Paul wrote to the Romans. It contained a list of commands that, when followed together, show what a Christian life looks like. I wonder if Paul knew that someday, about 2000 years later, a theology student would quote these exact words at the end of a global pandemic. I love that he made it sound so simple to live a Christian life. Have hope, be patient, and pray. Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last two years?
Easter is a holiday I love and hate.
Ever since I have been on this journey of faith, I have struggled with the pain and sorrow surrounding the death of Jesus, and all the days leading up to it during Holy Week. However, by Sunday, I am so hopeful, joy-filled, and inspired by Easter morning because of the Resurrection of Jesus. In some ways, I liken it to this time we’ve dealt with Covid–the waiting, the sorrow, not knowing what’s going to happen but then we see hope on the horizon, and I just know, as I feel the presence of God, that one day soon we will all return to somewhat normal life. I will be stronger and wiser and more appreciative of it.
In my lifetime, I have never had to face death from a pandemic, as many of us haven’t. This event that we’ve lived through has been the darkest period of my life. We stopped our in-person Native American Urban Ministry worship gatherings for over a year. I self-isolated for months, which meant no work, no church, no pool playing, concert-going or traveling-things I feel are essential for my existence. Many of us didn’t gather with family or friends for a year or more. Babies were born, people got married, many funerals happened and still we stayed apart.
The one thing I didn’t stop doing however was praying. In fact, I found myself praying more than ever, now through Zoom meetings with fellow students and online worship groups instead of at church. Prayer brings a connection with God through the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t raised as a Lutheran, I was raised with my Lakota religion. This means when I face times of trial, I fall back on those ways, just as many Christians pick up their bibles. I don’t consider that my ways are any better but I find as much comfort in tying and offering prayer ties as I do in reading scripture.
I will burn cedar or sweetgrass, usually as I do my daily devotionals. These things bring me an explicable joy, one that I cannot describe. I am blessed to be able to have God in my life and the Creator of my ancestors. At one time, for my people, the Lakota, this wouldn’t have been possible. I am proud of my heritage and happy that I can have that with me on my journey into the Lutheran faith.
Living through Covid 19 has taught me not to take tomorrow for granted. I am embracing the things I missed while we quarantined. The lunch breaks with friends, seeing family that I put off even before the pandemic, saying yes to every breakfast/dinner/coffee get together, attending bible study, playing pool, seeing concerts, and yes, even grocery shopping.
Do the things that you know bring you joy. Then do the things that you always wanted to do but didn’t take the time to do. Then do more! Try that yoga class, take those swim lessons, book that trip, take that class, write that article, learn a new language, dance every time you feel the urge, because if you’re reading this beloved, you survived. Learn to live again. Times like these indeed.
Wanda K. Frenchman is of the Oglala Lakota and Lenape tribes. She is one half of a set of twins and daughter to ELCA Pastor MaryLouise Frenchman. She is currently a Research Coordinator for the Strong Heart Study, one of the oldest and longest cardiac studies on Native American Health and a student at PLTS in the TEEM Program. She is the vicar for Native American Urban Ministry in Downtown Phoenix. Wanda has served on the Grand Canyon Synod WELCA Board from 2014 to 2021 and has started a Native WELCA bible study group at NAUM. Her passions include playing competitive billiards, doing yoga, traveling again and attending Native American powwows.
Pictured far left: Wanda stands with the Native Women of the ELCA Bible Study Group, Native American Urban Ministry, Phoenix, Az. They restarted their in-person Women’s Bible Study on April 9th.