Well, family, we are living in astonishing times. My little ones are home from daycare indefinitely, but my husband and I have continued work, school, and financial expectations. It’s a mostly unwelcome adventure, to be honest. But, comparably, I know we’ve got it pretty good. Between making snacks, finger painting, kissing owies, resolving playroom tantrums, and bouts of giggles, I’ve compiled a few thoughts on the wildness of this situation.
First, fear is more than a four letter f-word. A fear response in a dangerous situation is appropriate. I’ll go further and say that condemning a healthy fear response is condemning God’s created purpose in us. Our bodies have been designed to keep us alive. That means that when we perceive danger, the parts of our brain that take charge are different from the usual directors of cerebral traffic. These brain areas instruct our bodies to act in ways that preserve our lives. In imminent danger situations, these actions make obvious sense. For example, when meeting a crocodile in the wild (my personal worst fear), our brain routes energy to our limbs to get us the hell outta dodge. To make that possible, our brains also tell our lungs to pull in all the oxygen we need and our hearts to pump up the blood flow. This means that resources must be taken from other areas of our brains. In the exampled situation, that’s just fine because our ability to remember what day it is and our mother’s maiden name becomes pretty irrelevant. However, in day-to-day situations that cause us anxiety, fear responses can be maladaptive. We have the same body responses, but without the need to fight or flee, they result in trembling, breathlessness, rapid pulses, sweating, and the inability to think clearly or remember a damn thing (holla at me, anxiety friends!).
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t exactly an imminent danger situation or a day-to-day anxiety situation. It’s somewhere in between: dangerous, but not imminent; day-to-day, but not exaggerated. Fear is appropriate, but its response needs to be guided—which, admittedly, can be difficult if our logical brain has been ousted from leadership! Fear is intended to motivate action; our job, now, is to make sure our actions are adaptive.
Here’s my number one suggestion: talk to your fear. Say something like, “Hey buddy, I can feel you’re having a rough time. It must be hard to keep me alive when the threat is so new, so unknown, and so relentless. Thanks for trying your best. We’re gonna figure this out and we’re gonna be okay, I promise.” Before you think I’m cuckoo-bananas, let me just say that the therapeutic technique of personifying and externalizing negative emotions and states of being is productive and effective. This method has the double-whammy of | 1 | putting your logical, analytical, and sensible brain back online and | 2 | validating you and your experience.
It is really important that we honour our fear. We need to obey the instinct to survive, while directing it into practicality and responsibility. This is where not surrendering reason—and faith—to fear becomes important. So, we should go to stores. We should get what we need for ourselves and our families so that we can nourish our bodies and minds. But we must also leave enough for our communities. We must share survival. This isn’t survival of the craftiest. This is survival of the community.
This isn’t survival of the healthiest, either. This is survival of the whole. Please remember that government, science, and health officials have, collectively, a broad perspective and a high level of education and responsibility. When they ask us to embrace inconvenience to serve our countries, let’s do it. Let’s lay down our pride, our priorities, and our opinions; let’s choose obedience.
A special side note to Christians:
Radical faith is not the same thing as radical obedience.LANDEN DORSCH
Just as Peter didn’t step out on the waves until he was called by his Friend, we’re not meant to step into risk—or, these days, out our doors—unless our Friend clearly calls us to do so. Let’s found our faith in relationship with our Friend and Father. I’ll leave it there.
Switching tracks… I don’t know about you, but the word “disruption” doesn’t make me think of good things. It’s associated with force, destruction, disorder, interruption, and turmoil. But, when I look closer, I find that it’s also associated with newness. So I’ve been thinking the last few days, what good might come from welcoming this disruption? What if we submit to this upset of our lives? What if we let COVID-19 and social distancing pick us up by our ankles like an old school bully and shake the passivity, apathy, selfishness, detachment, and halfheartedness from all our little pockets?
It’s been grimly joked that this is the end of the world as we know it. Frankly, I hope it is. Wouldn’t it be great if this was the end of caring more for comfort than for community? Wouldn’t it be amazing if this was the end of ignoring conflicts with our personal sense of safety and happiness? Wouldn’t it be exciting if this was the death of suffocating doubt and the birth of brave innovation and vision? Wouldn’t it be incredible if this was the end of selfishness and the start of servitude? As our world is being separated and isolated, it’s simultaneously getting close and bonded. Things are changing. We’re changing. This could be so, so good.
My next thought is this: being stuck at home with few options of activities and very little social interaction can take a toll on mental health. So please, set an alarm in the morning. Shower. Get dressed (tempting as it may be to stay in your pyjamas). Eat breakfast. Be in relationship however you can; thank God for technology. Be active. Get fresh air. Feed your brain. Be kind to your soul. Please don’t submit to laziness and loneliness; the more you do, the worse you’ll feel. Poor mental health is as much about perpetuating factors as it is about triggers and predispositions. In this delicate climate, choose to nurture yourself and your loved ones instead of falling into self-sabotaging tendencies.
Finally, let’s remember that God is good. As my dad has told me again and again (and again) over the last three decades: God isn’t surprised by this. He isn’t a politician scrambling to get ahead of it all. He isn’t a doctor desperately trying to make us understand the situation. He isn’t slipping off of his throne in a panic. He has no need for calming belly breaths. He’s not thrown, he’s not worried, he’s not confused, and he’s definitely not afraid. While we do our part to be responsible citizens of heaven and earth, let’s not forget: our God is the master at turning chaos to beauty, crisis to kindness, and sorrow to joy. He’s working this bad to our good in every moment. We’re being faced with the unavoidable, undeniable reality of our weakness; so let’s rely on his perfect strength. Our Father wants to hold our hearts and bodies with compassion and healing; let’s relax into him. Let’s let him take all of our worries and sorrows tenderly in hand. In case you ever wondered, he honours how we feel; we should, too.
1 | Give yourself permission to feel what you feel.
2 | Keep your head on.
3 | Embrace servitude and humility.
4 | Welcome this uncomfortable opportunity to grow and change.
5 | Take care of yourself and your family.
6 | Trust your Father.
7 | Trust your Father.