WARNING: Opinions about opinions...
Gaze across a sea of distance; a vast dividing line like the empty space between opposing armies. There are high walls to climb, even when you can’t see them- different worlds marked by invisible borders. An outbreak spreads across the human race... Oh, and I haven't even referenced the COVID-19 virus yet! Today, I address the "outbreak of opinion." I bring to your attention the complex enigma of differing human thought(s).
Now, I admit, I’ve made several mistakes this week that drew my attention to the matter. The first one occurred when I turned on the news. Bad idea! I don’t deny the importance of being informed, but the impact of the newscast made its mark within the 30 seconds. I wasn’t quite sure why every other anchor felt the need to restate the same issues- seemingly stirring a figurative “pot of fear." My second mistake was opening social media. To witness the stark contrast between fact and fiction; to be bombarded with fruitless information, insensitive humor and oversensitive rants was jarring. Opinions stack up like LEGO bricks. Many perspectives on the pandemic left me shaking my head like I just watched two children equally lose a “slap-fight” on the playground. No one’s a winner in the “opinion” game, but everyone feels the need to play. Even now, I risk participation as I share my own thoughts on "thoughts." There are, however, legitimacies worth noting in such moments of unpredictability...
1) We will inevitably remember these days differently. Some will look back in solemn reminiscence, while others will shrug their shoulders with a vague afterthought. Some history books will tell tales of 2020… "when the world stood still and so many held their breath- when borders and businesses were closed and the stock market dropped- when citizens were quarantined in their homes as a viral pandemic prowled outside." Others will foolishly forget the severity of it all; tossing these moments into the closet of their memory with all the other “doomsdays” that have come and gone. One will say, “Remember the virus? Remember the fear and uncertainty?” And another will retort, “I just remember when Wal-Mart ran out of toilet paper.” One will somberly recollect... “Remember the countless sick and the lives lost?” And another will scoff with ignorance… “I just remember a lot of people freaking out about nothing.” Will you allow God to shape your memory?
2) We will inevitably respond to these days differently. Some children will entertain the thought of an “early summer.” Times devoid of schoolwork, stocked with extra snacks and cartoons. Other little ones will likely wonder why their routines have been altered- why they aren’t allowed to see their friends, and why their parents never leave for work anymore. Some folks will embrace the inconveniences of the day, moving forward with recommended precaution- managing the minor aggravations of eating out a little less and learning to cook a little more. Many will default to anger because the pattern of their “everyday” has been modified, leaving them "inconvenienced" by delayed vacations, cancelled cruises, empty sports stadiums and locked up shopping malls. One soul might conclude the day with a prayer of gratitude…”I’m so glad we’re alright. Not everyone can say the same,” while another will squawk irrationally... “well, I had a party coming up… I missed the sales at the store… I lost money that I won’t be able to get back!” Many more will simply linger in the space between the poles. Neutral. Impartial. “Just trying to live.” Aren't we all? Will you allow God to shape your response?
3) We will inevitably review these days differently. Polarized opinions are a convention of human struggle. They arrive like clockwork and abound in full force. Listen for the claims. Look for the extremes. We all burn with the desire to be right, bustling around like a frantic colony of fire ants. We all stir with the desire to be heard, vocalizing like a troop of howler monkeys. Even when don't take action, our subconscious longs to maintain some form of power. Those of us who don’t keep our flesh in check and stand on solid ground may slip into a variety of muddy trenches.
There’s the pit of allegation. Today, it's taken the form of those who theorize a “fabricated” pandemic; whether by the government or "the aliens." Conspiracy theorists (who trust no one) always manage to gain the trust of someone else. It's "certainty" (grounded in nothing). The someone who “knew this was coming.” These folks don’t miss a beat of vigorous projection while very little circumstantial evidence exists to back up their outlandish claims. Fall into this hole and risk losing your sense of reality.
There’s the pit of paranoia. What might begin as “preparation” can quickly turn irrational. The desire to be informed can rapidly become an insatiable appetite for "what ifs." Basement shelves are suddenly stocked with water and Twinkies for the zombie apocalypse, when initial guidance simple began with, "stay home and wash your hands." We can work ourselves into a tizzy from nothing more than the voice inside. Fall into this hole and risk losing your sense of sanity.
Finally, there's the pit of indifference. So many just wish to survive the day; quietly adhering to basic guidelines and going about their lives as best they can until this siege is lifted, but there is great danger in sinking too far into “self.” It can cause us to neglect necessary habits; breaking our routines as apathy and complacency begin to grow in us like mold on the basement walls. Fall into this hole and risk losing your sense of perspective.
Will you allow God to shape your thoughts?
In the thick of this mess, have you stopped to wholeheartedly ask God’s mind on the matter? Beyond the simple prayers for help- apart from the prayers for protection, patience, peace or provision, are you striving to make His ways your own? Right now more than ever! Brothers and sisters… every thought, opinion (and response) has the potential to miss its mark when tossed without Godly intentions. Like an arrow shot at the sky, it won't land very well. The banner of control is never ours to bear. We can’t acquire what doesn’t belong to us, and even in denial, we secretly try to attain it. Moments of great uncertainty can cause even the most fervent believer to toe the line- one foot on the rock and another in the sand. In the end, we will simply land on our backsides.
With full access to God's holy word- His perfect plans and promises, we certainly understand the reasons to trust. We know (in our heart of hearts) that the Father controls every moment (even a world that seems to be spinning off its axis). We remember the trustworthy sayings and attempt to surrender fear (in exchange for faith), but when our eyes witness danger (and foundations start to quake), we grab again for control with the misconception that we could “do things better” ourselves. We stand (and sink), clutching what seems to give us rule, rather than reaching out to the one with true power.
Do not confound what it is to stand on faith, or fall for the appealing words of those on soapboxes. Even Christians (with all their good intentions) can wrongfully sway others; implying that fear should have no potency against the "firmest believer." Friends, fear CAN grow strong (and hold sway) when we feed it and let it take root. Trusting the Lord is acknowledging His dominion OVER fear and danger. Faith doesn't pretend that the fire isn’t there (or ignorantly assume that heaven's favor will save you from a burn). Faith is clinging to the Father's hand on the journey through the flames. He doesn’t threaten punishment on the fearful, but simply reminds us to find courage in a power greater than that which seeks to enslave us. Faith embraces the presence of one “who sticks closer than a brother.” Prov 18: 24(b)
“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10
Lay aside your “thoughts" on any matter of current events and reset your eyes on things above; on the truth of God’s word; the quality of His character and the strength of His position. He is still on the throne and He reigns in You today!
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”
1 Chronicles 29: 11
Do you despair? Do you just not care? Still looking for control or leaning on your own understanding? If God is truly “enough,” then abandon your search for anything more. Choose to be a part of a grander outbreak. There’s no better time than now! Spread an outbreak of good. Advance an outbreak of love. Do it with passion! A tremendous hand has been dealt to God's people (perhaps a blessing in disguise), as much of the world is finally quiet enough to hear the truth. Pray against fear and apathy that cause us to just "wait this out," and be a part of furthering God's kingdom here on earth. At a time of “safe distance” and “quarantine,” take the hand of someone's heart and set it in the Savior's.