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Recovering from ‘surge capacity’ depletion

In those early COVID-19 quarantine months, I, along with most of the rest of the country, was using “surge capacity” to operate, as Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota put it. Surge capacity? What is that?

Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.

What happens when you struggle to renew energy because the emergency phase has now become chronic, ongoing, and consistent?

While the phrase “adjusting to the new normal” has been repeated endlessly since March, and all get sick of hearing it…how do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the “new normal” is indefinite uncertainty?

It’s different from a hurricane or tornado where you can look outside and see the damage. The destruction is, for most people, invisible and ongoing. That means reckoning with what’s called ambiguous loss, any loss that’s unclear and lacks a resolution. It can be physical, such as a missing person or the loss of a limb, or psychological, such as a family member with dementia or a serious addiction.

In this case, it is a loss of a way of life, of the ability to meet up with your friends and extended family. It’s the loss of our freedom to move about in our daily life as we used to. It’s also the loss of the educational experience we’re used to, given school closures, modified openings and virtual schooling. It’s the loss of rituals, such weddings, graduations and funerals, and even lesser “rituals,” such as going to games and concerts. It’s not a death, but it’s a major loss, what we had has been taken away from us.

The Prophet Elijah had a surge capacity depletion in 1 Kings 19:4-8.

He said, take my life…then he lay down and slept. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat!” There was bread and water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him saying, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel 40 days and 40 nights.

As COVID lingers, realize that the journey is too great unless we get up and eat. But I’m not talking about dinner. I’m talking about receiving what Jesus provides. Bread reminds us of our need for daily provisions. The cup reminds us of what we cannot do ourselves. Only Jesus can provide forgiveness and healing. Take it, or the journey will be too much for you.

REV. JOHN MOXLEY can be reached at Jmoxley1@juno. com.