I don't like being told what to do. Or, more precisely, I don't like the way it feels having someone make decisions for me which I think I should be able to make for myself. As you can imagine, the last six months have been a difficult pill to swallow. Let me be blunt: I hate it all.
I hate the stupid masks and the dumb face shields. I particularly hate it when people post pictures and videos on social media of themselves wearing them. It always seems to me that they are either virtue signaling or acquiescing to the "new norm" which makes me want to shout at the top of my lungs "Why would anyone want to normalize this?!"
(Hang on, remember, this post isn't about the virus.)
I'm done with all of it. I never want to hear the term "social distancing" again in my life. I'm tired of re-ingesting my own breath-flavored-carbon-dioxide-laced air every time I leave the house while reliving every time my older siblings thought it would be funny to cover my mouth and nose with their hands while I cried, kicked, and screamed. (Unlike then, now, biting the offender has no effect). I would volunteer to rip up all those 6 feet apart signs, and aisle direction arrows on the floor in Walmart, douse them with gasoline and burn them in a giant bonfire in the parking lot, then carry their ashes to the fires of Mt. Doom to be destroyed for eternity.
(Remember, I'm not writing about the virus, I promise.)
No doubt some of you have now queued up your playlist of rejoinders, so let me just say this: I also hate all the trite slogans like, "We're all in this together," (spoken by billionaire celebrities "quarantined" on their private island in the Bahamas), and "flatten the curve," (Wow, remember that one? Seems like an eternity ago...), and "slow the spread," all which seem to trivialize the tragedy of jobs lost, lives derailed, and emotional distress caused not by the disease itself, but the response to the disease. I especially hate the silly pop culture comparisons of masks to seatbelts and peeing on someone's leg. I mean, really, if a guy(or gal) on TV in a labcoat with a million letters after his name isn't convincing, how effective do you expect your Facebook meme to be?
(Not about COVID, just hang on, I'm getting there)
I have my reasons for my perspective, but I'm not going to share them today, because here is the point, and the one with which I think anyone can relate, even if you don't agree with me about the rest:
It doesn't matter what I think.
I have to come to grips with the fact that I can hate masks, but they aren't going away. I can grumble and seethe, loathing every moment out in public, but that is going to change nothing. I can argue with people on social media or berate the clerk at Sam's Club who is barring the door to all the unmasked rabble, but they aren't the ones making the rules. I can contact my elected representatives, but I'm one voice of millions in an election year, and my gut says that my interests aren't nearly special enough to earn their attention.
There is nothing I can do. If the worst possible scenario is about to come true, and tomorrow, society descends into an Orwellian dystopia led by mask-mandating despots, I still have to decide how I am going to live today.
So, how am I going to live today?
On the one hand, I can continue raging against things over which I have no power, allowing the bitterness and bile to grow, poisoning even the good things that I enjoy, like my relationships with friends, family, neighbors, and God.
Or, (the opposite extreme) I could go full Pollyanna and pretend that nothing is wrong, putting a smile on, and naively assuming that no one in a position of power and influence could be working a self-serving angle. I could simply fall in step and unquestioningly take the path of least resistance, uncritically accepting the most popular narratives of culture.
Both of these extremes seem to me to lead to different flavors of futility and insignificance. But there is another way. The writer of Ecclesiastes, after he searched far and wide for meaning in the chaos of life, came to this conclusion: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Eccl. 12:13, ESV)
Christians have been placed upon this earth in all generations, and in all sorts of difficult circumstances, for this singular mission, to love God and bring Him glory, by keeping His commands, and showing His love to those around us. That is our mission, and it remains consistent regardless of our external circumstances. There are many things in life that we can't change, but in every circumstance, we can succeed in fulfilling our call to bring glory to God. What does that mean for me at this moment? I think something like this:
I stay in the conversation about temporal things, but I also know when for my own or someone else's benefit, I should shut up.
I never let my political view, frustrations, or disagreements with others become an excuse to treat them less than the Image-bearers that they are.
I embrace the humility of knowing that this world is not my home, and when you live in someone else's home, sometimes they get to tell you what to do.
I embrace the epistemic humility of knowing that there is much that I don't know, and some of these things that I think should be as clear as day may be unclear to some people because I'm wrong.
I make it a general rule that in annoying times, I should do my best to make things less annoying for others, not more.
I call to mind as often as is possible the truth that God is always faithful, working for our good, providing peace and joy when we surrender to His plan. Difficult circumstances are the landscape upon which these truths are most beautifully drawn.
Can I do it? Well, I'm trying. I have my good moments and those times when bad attitudes seem to be winning. But, I pray that God grants to me what I lack, and I pray that all of us together, the people of God, exiled to this earthly domain for a time, will light up the darkness for His glory whatever present trials, and future challenges we face.