FREEDOM FROM PURPOSE: We have been told that somewhere out there is a magical place called “Purpose”. Here on this island of the terrestrial soul you will find all the things you long for—happiness, joy, peace, meaning, basically all the things Jesus has already provided for you for free.
Let me emphatically state that Covid-19 is not my first Rodeo. My childhood was deeply impacted by my parents alcoholism and subsequent divorce, creating a deep wound of insecurity and fear. I was kicked out of numerous schools and due to all of the transition attended seven jr. high schools in a 2 year span. Yes, seven in two years. To say the least, it was incredibly disruptive.
In my adult leadership and family life I have now gone through the trauma of Y2K, September 11th, the 2008 financial crisis, Karie’s (my wife) brother’s suicide, a 9 month panic disorder and now this. Not to mention all of the other worldly concerns like epic fires, tidal waves, school shootings and the like.
Looking back, I am now more grateful than ever for these events in my life. Each has led me to a place of deeper faith and trust. Dare I say surrender. In the moment, each of these seasons seemed larger and more foreboding than they actually were in reality. This is the problem with trauma and traumatic events, they blur reality and cause us to depart the moment and descend into a quagmire or future thought, most of which is a conjuring of our deep embedded and rooted core fears.
When this happens, we begin to cement future fears into a false, but very present virtual reality. What might happen in 5 days, one month and one year all seem imminent and in the present. The truth is that they are more than often not.
When working with my counselor Bill Faris during my 9 month reconnoiter into panic disorder, he suggested that when all of those overwhelming thoughts present themselves that I should pause and take a moment to take stock of true reality. What was really happening to me this second. I even started wearing a rubber band on my wrist to pull and snap myself back into the moment. This is a tool I learned while reading a book on anxiety cures. The snapping signals to the brain to get back to focusing on the moment as fear and panic are usually future laden. Bill suggested that I ask myself the following. Was I under imminent threat? No. Was a bear chasing me? No. Was it my 4th day without water? No. And so on. Actually, every single time I took that survey the results were the same. I was never once in imminent danger. Now only to convince my mind.
The days directly following the September 11th attack were totally surreal. Planes stopped flying, no one went out to eat and there was this eerie silence happening. I still find it more dystopian than anything I have ever experienced to date. The thing that made it more potent were all of the images that kept being fed to us. We were consuming a steady stream of videos showing towers collapsing, zombie like New Yorkers caked in grey dust and buildings on fire.
Looking back now, it is crystal clear that the fear was based more on unknowns than reality. What is also true is that like every other traumatic event that I have witnessed in my 50 years, never yet has one actually lived up to the perceived fear. Not one. Nada. Zero.
Had I been more perceptive at the time, I would have sought to live in a place of deeper gratitude during these times. Gratitude and thanksgiving are powerful cures to worry. Both are deep spiritual tools that transcend our emotions and allow us to surrender all of the things that we tend to cling to as support, but often let us down.
The book of Job has a powerful statement uttered by a man who had lost everything but his hope! Job says, “”Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Solid!
Today, I am grateful that during this trying time, it is raining in California after the driest February on record. The snow stores have been replenished and the reservoirs that will water the Central Valley crops which feed ⅕ of the world’s population are brimming. Food is not a scarcity in America.
I also have an amazing family and friends, especially at our church who are filled with hope and positivity. The few of us that gathered for prayer yesterday laughed until our sides hurt. It was medicine for the soul.
As previously stated, COVID-19 is not my first rodeo, it’s just another angry bull with a different name. And like those that have come before it, I will ride. The difference is that this time I am equipped with a ten gallon Stetson of faith and spurs sharpened with hope. I plan to gouge the “hell” out of this bull and give it everything I got. Yeah, these next 8 seconds might seem like an eternity, but now is our time and now is our moment. Let’s do this thing!
There is a reason why the phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On” has sold a billion tea towels around the world. It’s one of those phrases that has the rare ability to call for dignity and normalcy in the midst of chaos.
During the Battle of Britain, Nazi bombers began a civilian bombing campaign designed to cripple not only the seat of political power in London, but also destabilize the psyche of the British people. The hope was to cause Britains to scorn their government, develop an individualistic and survivalist mentality and to sow disunity, incivility and discontent in the people’s hearts.
What transpired over the next 56 days of continued fire bombing could not have landed further afield of that intention. Rather than a mass social chaos, the people of England banded together like never before in what came to be known as the Blitz Spirit.
An American who witnessed the raids first hand stated, “By every test and measure I am able to apply, these people are staunch to the bone and won’t quit … the British are stronger and in a better position than they were at its beginning”.
In a massive civilian mobilization, people began to sacrifice their own well-being and safety for the care and survival of others. Relatives and friends in the country took in children from the cities. Food was not hoarded, but rather rationed and shared. Fire brigades fought blazes every night and rushed into burning buildings to rescue the injured. Even the British lexicon added new phrases to downplay the terror and liken it to the weather with sayings like, “Today was a little less Blitzy than yesterday.”
Here’s the point. A person or society, is rarely measured by how they maintain in the good times. Rather, it is how they choose to live in the midst of the most dire of times that defines them.
Over the last couple of months global societies have endured a modern day viral Blitz of sorts. Concern has in many cases given way to panic. While some might be forecasting an apocalypse, what I sense is an incredible opportunity. Because this is the thing with crises, all of them have a weakness that can be exploited for the greater good.
It was said of the Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant that what made him incredible in battle was not that he knew how to counter a foes greatest strength, but rather that he was a savant when it came to exploiting their weaknesses. What destroys a foe is rarely an assault to their front, but rather an attack on their flank.
The societal flank of Covid-19 are sacrifice, generosity and concern. It is here, on these fronts where the real battle is being fought. Yes, viruses are often a matter of life or death, but they also war for our humanity.
While this might be counter-intuitive, could it be that Covid-19 is the exact enemy this society needs? Perhaps this is a devilish looking blessing in disguise which offers us the opportunity to heal the growing fracture in our civil discourse?
The discord I speak of has been growing for decades. It is a discord bred from the poultice of self consumption, electronic distraction and political disdain so often displayed in the realm of social media.
Maybe, just maybe this Covid-19 is our chance to regain our soul, to care less about ourselves and more about others no matter who they are or what they believe, a time to truly love our neighbor.
But it is also an opportunity for a renaissance of our own souls. Will we bow to the clamour of panic and fear or will we define ourselves as one of those rare individuals who waits for these moments to rise up and become fully human? Perhaps this is our last chance to become those people who are not defined in the ghetto of squalor called fear but instead define greatness of character by the way we live during a Blitz.