From the Interim Rector - March 19 2021
Twenty-one miles off the Southern California coast sits Catalina Island. It is a favorite destination for day-travelers and last minute weekend jaunts. It is one of Southern California’s treasures. On July 4, 1952 Florence Chadwick attempted to be the first woman to swim the Catalina channel. An experienced long-distance open water swimmer, Ms. Chadwick would go on to break both the men’s and women's world records for swimming both the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar. Unfortunately, Ms. Chadwick didn’t make it to Catalina. Besides the ice cold water and fog so dense she could barely see the support boat trailing her, sharks were circling; driven back by shotgun blasts from her crew. After swimming for 15 hours and 55 minutes she just could not swim another stroke and ended her attempt. What she and her support crew did not know at the time because of the dense fog was that she was only a half mile from Catalina Island. When she discovered how close she actually was she was devastated and said, “If I could have just seen land I could have made it.”
I’ve been thinking about Florence recently. And, the end of Covid-19. Of course, we know there will never been an actual end to Covid. It is here to stay. So perhaps it’s more accurate to say, I have been thinking a lot about the end of Covid restrictions. What I’ve come to realize for myself, and perhaps you may be feeling the same thing, is that while we know there will come a day when all the Covid restrictions will end, we don’t know when that day will actually be. Like Florence, we know the goal is out there, and it’s closer than it’s ever been, but we don’t know how close or far away it actually is. Like Florence we don’t know how much longer we must find the strength to stay in the water and keep swimming. Not knowing how much more we will have to endure, and I’m speaking not just about the restrictions, but the suffering and loss of life that continues to mount, adds another layer of exhaustion to all we have already experienced.
Florence Chadwick was beyond exhausted. I cannot imagine the physical and psychological pain she must have endured stroke after stroke and hour after hour as the waves pummeled her and the sharks encircled her. Nevertheless, I believe her when she said, “If I could have just seen land…” I believe she would have stayed in the water and she would have made it. You and I may not be able to see the end date of the Covid-19 restrictions -- how could we? No one really knows. However, the end is out there and we are getting closer. And so, as with any marathon test of endurance, there comes a point when we must dig down deep and find that last measure of strength -- that last reserve of endurance and stay the course. But know this as well, when there comes a day when you have come to that last ounce of reserve and you feel you can’t endure one more Zoom meeting, or one more day of guiding your children through remote learning, or one more solitary night in your home that feels more like a cell than a home; know that God’s promise is that God’s strength is there for you. For, as St. Paul writes out of his own experience of enduring weakness, hardships and difficulties, God’s grace is sufficient and God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses (II Corinthians 12:9 & 10). In my experience, it’s only when I refuse to admit weakness that I find I have no more strength left to meet the challenge that is facing me. For, again from Paul, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses …. For when I am weak, then I am strong." May God’s strength be your strength when you have no strength left.