Pandemic Reflections

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been watching and listening to the people that I interact with on a regular basis and processing how they are coming to terms with the reality of this pandemic.

My pastor friends seem to fall into two distinct categories.

The first category is built from the mindset “Once this inconvenience blows over, it’ll be back to normal for everyone.” Their timeframe is very short, sincerely believing that probably everything will be fine in another 2 weeks or so. Every time they share something, they talk about how much they can’t wait to get back together, how they are going to be running up and down the aisles and hugging and kissing everyone they can. They sincerely resent not being able to meet on a regular basis and they are extraordinarily uncomfortable with online church or any other form of church that may be different then simply coming into the church building, worshiping, listening to the sermon, and then leaving. I often wonder if quietly many of them are whispering to themselves that everything else is heresy…

The second category is built from the mindset “The church will never be the same, the old has gone and the new has come!” Their timeframe is much longer, believing that we will be in shutdown until at least June or July and that nothing will ever be the same again. They’ve adapted quickly to this new paradigm. Many of them are secretly relieved that church is no longer business as usual and they are quietly hoping that some of the “problem” Christians that attend their church will leave for other churches. They are so relieved to be rid of the routine and they are embracing and taking advantage of every single moment in this crisis to reinvent how they think about and do church.

My political friends, both conservatives and liberals, are operating out of an entirely different mindset.

My conservative friends, particularly the Libertarians of the group, are absolutely convinced that this pandemic is a direct result of the Democrats trying to destroy Trump’s chances at reelection and the economy at the same time. They aren’t buying what the news channels or experts are saying, they think the entire pandemic is a scam and they are refusing to change how they live or interact with others. They believe that the experts and reporters are grossly exaggerating the numbers and using the argument that people are actually dying from the Flu and not Covid-19, if it even exists at all. And interestingly enough, they are beginning to resent Trump for what they see as bowing to the pressure.

My liberal friends are taking the pandemic seriously. They are staying home and encouraging others to stay home. They are listening to all the news channels and experts and drawing interesting and convincing arguments about the severity of the pandemic. Like my conservative friends, they don’t believe the experts and reporters are accurately reporting the numbers, instead they believe the numbers are actually much higher then what is being shared because the U.S. responded late and there aren’t enough tests or accurate tests for everyone to be tested. Initially, my liberal friends continued to blame Trump for this pandemic, but interestingly enough, many of them are now quietly praising Trump for how aggressive he has been in responding. They still don’t like or respect him, they still think he’s a barely literate idiot, but they are appreciative that he’s doing what he can do to try and prevent the spread.

And then there are my normal friends.

They have jobs, or used to. Their kids are in school, or used to be. They have offices and co-workers that they went to and saw everyday, or used to. They had some savings, or used to. Their response to this pandemic is to just keep holding on. They are doing everything they can to hold things together. Some bills aren’t going to be paid this month, they know that. Some of them are running short on food, toilet paper, and essentials and they’re trying to figure what to do about that. They are scared and worried, but they are just trying to take things one day at a time, take care of their families, and figure out what to do next.

But my friends that scare me the most are my Christian friends.

The reason for this is because my Christian friends are also my pastor friends, my political friends, and my normal friends. They are intermingled with every group that I’ve written about. Some are pastors convinced this is temporary. Some are pastors convinced everything’s changed. Some are conservatives convinced this is a scam. Some are liberals who are taking this seriously. Some are just normal people trying to make it through another day.

What scares me about some of my Christian friends is this, through their statements and interactions on Facebook, phone calls, and other means, it’s clear that Jesus might be their savior, but Jesus is clearly not Lord of their life. They are the Lord of their life and while they are forever indebted to Jesus for His sacrifice, they’ve never truly made Jesus the Lord of their life. They are still in control of their thoughts, words, and actions, those have never truly been surrendered to Jesus.

Here’s the point I want to make. You cannot call yourself a Christian and not have Jesus as Lord of your life. It’s just not possible. You cannot claim Jesus’s sacrifice and then retain complete control over how you think or respond or act. When you claim the sacrifice, the old person who controlled everything is gone. A new person is created who has agreed to submit to letting Jesus be Lord of their life. You cannot claim to be new and still live like the old – it’s just not possible and people see right through the hypocrisy.

So this is a wakeup call both for me and for others. Who is really Lord of your life? I hope you say Jesus and I hope that the Lord will grant you the wisdom and discernment to move away from the things you are attempting to control and serve Him faithfully and without question.

Trying ideas on…

I like to try ideas on.

I like to take an idea, an opportunity, a possibility, a whim, and try it on for a few days just to get a sense about what it might be like if it was real, if I actually followed through, if I made the decision to pursue this. This idea of trying things on works both in deciding TO do something and in deciding NOT TO do something.

I like to try on things like “I’m taking this new job” or “I’m moving to this new place” or “I used to skateboard when I was a kid, I could go down to the skatepark in the early morning and become an awesome skateboarder again” or “I could just ignore everyone and everything and never, ever risk again.”

Now, there’s some value to trying ideas on. You get a sense of the excitement of what might be. You can discover how you might feel about things. You can begin to address some of the fears in a relatively safe and rational environment.

But the problem with trying ideas on is that sooner or later you have to snap back to reality and come to terms with the fact that you still haven’t made a decision. You’ve spend hours, days, or weeks fantasizing about what might be rather than embracing the here and now.

I like to try ideas on, but only for a moment, because the real adventure begins when I make a decision and follow through on it. That’s when things get real.

Gripping panic and fear

There are random moments that I find myself crippled with panic and fear. Sometimes I can go days without this happening. Other times, it happens so frequently that I spend the entire day battling and find myself completely exhausted at the end of the day.

What cripples me is an irrational thought that God might not use me again. That I won’t be given the privilege of serving the kingdom, of sharing the good news, of being fully used by God for His glory. I fear that perhaps I’ve disqualified myself somehow or someway that I have yet to fully understand or comprehend.

And yet even in the midst of these moments, I hold tight to the following truths:

I know that God has not given me a spirit of fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells me this and so I hold onto that tightly. That fear is not mine, it is not from God, and so while it may impact me briefly, it does not have a place in my life of choosing to follow God.

I know that the calling of God is irrevocable. Romans 11:29 tells me this and when panic sets in that God may not ever use me again, I’m reminded that God does not make mistakes. He called me for a purpose. He will not revoke that calling and He will continue to use me as He sees fit.

So in this battle, I find myself gripping panic and fear with the truth that God has given to me. And those battles soon end and life goes on.

Press in or Walk Away?

It seems that there are always to clear responses to any situation.

The first response is that you can walk away. See something that you don’t like? Walk away. Are you bothered by the culture? Walk away. Did you get hurt or wounded or offended? Walk away. Is the task too difficult or too easy? Walk away.

Walking away is always an option. In fact, there are many who would argue that walking away is sometimes the best choice to make if what you are walking away from is actually hindering you from being complete.

The other response is to press in. See something you don’t like? Press in and make a difference. Are you bothered by the culture? Press in and change the culture. Have you been hurt or wounded or offended? Press into that hurt, expose that wound, deal with that offense and become better as a result of it. Is the task too difficult or too easy? Press in and do the very best you can with what you can.

Pressing in requires a deeper commitment to the task at hand. It requires you to not quit, to not give up, to dig deeper into whatever situation you find yourself in. Seth Godin wrote a book about this called “The Dip” – which talks about knowing when to walk away and knowing when to press in.

At the end of the day, it’s your decision – do you press in or do you walk away? Think carefully about this, consider the cost of both sides, seek Godly advice and wisdom, and then follow through with whatever decision you come to.

Processing Can be Overrated

Sometimes processing can be overrated.

Hear me out on this. It’s not that it’s not important to process events or circumstances, it’s just that sometimes the processing can get in the way of what you’re supposed to be learning.

Sometimes processing keeps us from healing or moving forward. It can keep us from becoming whole or complete because the actual act of processing can be overwhelming and unending.

Processing is important, but moving on from processing is just as important. It’s the next level of healing, the next step in coming to terms with our own humanity, and the next phase in moving on.

So take the time to process, but give yourself permission to heal and move on.

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