I’ve been on a mission to install this baseline in all of our lives: None of us are doing well and nobody realizes it.
We all hate the masks. Nobody likes them. They are uncomfortable. They remind us that things aren’t normal. They hinder us from seeing each other’s expressions.
Every interaction and every decision is incredibly complex. Unfortunately, the masks have become a shibboleth for your political views. What once was a routine stop at the store to get a few items has turned into a very complicated ritual.
We have to navigate questions like:
Do I wear a mask? (which usually necessitates a return to my car because I forgot my mask).
Is that person that I cut off with my cart mad? I’m not sure. I can’t see their facial expression.
What are others going to think if I don’t wear a mask (or if I do wear a mask)?
Then with every allergy sniffle, you wonder if you are supposed to get tested for COVID.
Plans are interrupted at the last minute because of a concern over a possible infection by someone we had contact with.
The list goes on and on and on. Every decision is complicated, and we just were not designed to have to think through little things.
One author compares this to what missionaries go through when they enter a new culture:
When someone moves to a completely new culture, many of the ‘autopilots’ your brain uses for thousands of small decisions every day become ineffective. In a similar way, your current environment has likely changed sufficiently enough that many of your own ‘autopilots’ are no longer working. When this happens, the next remaining option for your brain is to use a second decision-making process that requires far more effort and energy (glucose) to operate. Your body can only supply glucose to your brain at a certain rate – a rate far below what would be required to use this kind of thinking continually. Thus, additional thinking about routine matters has likely left you with a chronically depleted level of glucose in your brain. All to say: You are experiencing “culture shock”.
These times are frustrating and exhausting. Therefore, none of us are doing well, but nobody realizes it.
We need a better outlet for our frustration. We need to send the roots of our hearts deeper into the God who loves us in Christ.
Turn it off and turn to the Lord. Psalm 1 describes a person who is like a firmly planted tree that bears fruit year-round (instead of seasonally).
The key to this kind of thriving?
his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:2
Here’s the reality. We are so caught up with constant stimulation, news, and social media that we simply cannot meditate on God’s Word. Meditation requires some downtime. Meditation requires mulling over God’s Word until you start to appreciate the nuances and beauty. Meditation lets God’s Word marinate in our hearts until they are seasoned by his love.
But this is difficult to do when we are constantly stimulated.
So, turn it off. Turn off the news (hint: there’s no life and hope on CNN and Fox News, they are not going to give you Gospel news). Turn off social media.
Instead, just sit and meditate on God’s Word.
Embrace the grief before the Lord. This is a time of grieving. Acknowledge that this is a time of exhaustion. Because every decision is laden with weight and difficulty, we are more prone to frustration. And when frustrated, little things become big things. The kid’s toys on the floor aren’t a big deal, but I make it into a big deal when I’m tired and frustrated. Small things explode into big things. And right now, we are all physically and emotionally exhausted.
I think we have lost the discipline of lament. We need to learn to recognize our pain and pour out our grief to the Lord. The psalms can help us here:
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:14–15, ESV)
The Lord wants us to bring our dark emotions to him. As a discipline, before we turn to our issues or our loved ones, we probably should turn to the Lord and pour out our laments to him. I think this will help us think more clearly, carefully, and lovingly.
Finally, this has become a promise from Jesus that I repeat to myself almost daily now:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, ESV)