We have all been told to look on the bright side at some point in our lives. Or maybe you were told to view the glass as half full, or to remember that tomorrow is just a day away. However, some might be struggling to buy those views amid this horrible reality swirling around us.
Right now, you might see that glass as much less than half full. Perhaps you might even see only a few small drops remaining in that glass. Whether that is so, or even if you see nothing more than two drops, let these be those two drops.
#1 We Are Not in Control
It is often said that we make plans and God smiles. We hop around pushing buttons and transporting ourselves in many ways across the country, world, and universe with our little toys like over-confident children. But we are oblivious to the pieces of glass littering our existence.
If we have not cut our feet yet, it is only because of the grace and will of God and nothing else. The cynical may call it dumb luck at this point, but I have increasingly found it useful to enter God in that equation. Remove the dumb and the luck and leave it at that.
Robert Burns wrote of the best-laid plans of mice and men, reminding us that careful planning does not mean success. As Christians we should remind ourselves daily, and even more often if necessary, that nothing happens without God wanting it or allowing it to happen.
Some might argue that technology allows us to control more, but giving technology to human beings is like handing a bigger pair of scissors to a child. He might be able to cut more, but he will just as likely cut himself more as well.
Technology allows us to do incredible things unimaginable even a decade ago, yet it can often be fool’s gold when it comes to what really matters in life and eternity. People do not save their souls because they have the latest cell phone or app, but they sure might be better able to lose their souls for that reason. There is nothing inherently evil about electronic gizmos, but they sure can do harm in the wrong hands.
Locus of Control
We fancy ourselves captains of our ship, yet we are no more in control than the ship captain navigating the ocean oblivious to the upcoming storms. At the core of sin is the notion that we are the ones dictating the terms of our existence and the consequences of our actions. This pandemic is effectively reminding us that we are at the whim of nature, biology, and many other forces around us. At any moment we can fall victim to nature and human nature despite our pretense or delusion of control.
The term Locus of Control is used to define where we perceive the control in our lives. Our society gleefully encourages us to aspire to an internal locus of control whereby we empower ourselves as masters of our domain. It frowns upon an external locus of control as the excuse or, as Marx might label it, the opiate of the weak. We are told to be proactive, to make things happen, rather than be reactive – to let things happen to us.
Perhaps the formula is not to go to either extreme. We should not aspire to be total masters or resign ourselves to be total puppets. For the Christian, it might perhaps be best to identify where our control ends and God’s control begins and leave everything in God’s hands. We can and should do our part and leave the rest to God. After all, we have a better chance of sinning when we either think that we know all of the answers or blame God every time things do not go our way.
#2 We Worry Too Much About Falling and Not Enough About Getting Up
I define falls as any stumble, fumble, or mishap in our lives. Divorce, illness, career struggle, bad grades, rejection, spiritual doubts, and everything in between are all falls in my book.
We tend to envision falls too mechanically as physical collapses or failures. In fact, we have come to equate falling with failure itself. Perhaps this comes from the world of sports where most falls are not a good thing. The runner or player who falls stops progressing toward the desired goal. We cringe when the skater falls or even stumbles during a routine, imagining all of that preparation and work going to waste. We would never envy the one who falls and, in fact, how we react to others’ falls tells a lot about who we are followers of Christ.
Do we ignore the fallen because we are too obsessed on ourselves? Or do we criticize them, too comfortable in our supposed superiority and qualification to judge? Do we mock them, hoping to conceal our own insecurity regarding our faults? Or do we rush to their aid, seeing them as brothers and sisters and ourselves as the hands, eyes, and hearts of Christ in this world?
At the end of the day, I think our society teaches us to be too worried about falling and not enough about getting up. We are so insecure, so worried about how others will see us, and so engrossed in pretending that we are perfect or correct. And we cannot be compassionate because we cannot admit knowing what it is like to need compassion. We cannot forgive because we cannot admit that we too have needed forgiveness at some point. We cannot love because we are too concerned with loving only ourselves or being loved by others.
Fear of Failure
The prospect of falling paralyzes us because we see falling as failure. That is how the devil wants us to think because he knows we will surely fall and therefore surely see ourselves as failures and give up. The key is to see falls and struggles as stepping stones to something far greater. For Christians, that far greater is Christ and salvation. If we keep our eyes on that prize, our falls will only be pauses in the action of saving our souls and the souls of others. We are here to love and serve God and others; everything else is a commercial between the action of our main story.
Since we are all human, we will fall. It is a waste of time to spend all of our time worrying and trying to avoid falling. Sure, we should try to avoid falls when we can. However, we should look at the bigger picture beyond any falls in our lives. No fall defines our life unless we allow it to. What should define our lives is how well we love and serve God and others, follow Christ in serving God, and get up from whatever falls we experience. We do not define our faith by how often we fall but, rather, by how often and how well we get up to try again.
We will experience high points and low points in our journey through this life and toward our eternity. This pandemic is surely a low point in many ways for each of us. However, we can define the outcome of this fall just as we can for any other fall in our lives. We can cringe in fear and doubt in a fetal position, and blame or resent God. But I suggest we choose a third option – using this time to reflect, reaffirm, be remorseful, be thankful, and re-dedicate ourselves to becoming the kind of people God wants us to be.
How many times do we give up chocolate or something else for Lent, pretending that not having Kit Kats is spiritually uplifting. Perhaps God wants us to experience the deepest Lent we have ever had. Not having the Sacraments is a torture which should leave us eternally grateful for having them in the future.
Corona means crown in Spanish. Let us turn this Corona Virus Pandemic into a new opportunity to earn our crowns as people who will always get up to follow Christ to the ends of the earth and beyond.