By David Hegg
Let’s take a minute to look back. Who ever thought this virus would be such a pest, such a villain, such a robber of life and comfort? I didn’t see this coming, and I have resigned myself to thinking I really don’t know what lies ahead. And that set me to thinking: What have we learned that we need never to forget?
Before casting my thoughts out to those who read my columns, let me remind you that I don’t claim any form of omniscience. Further, what knowledge I do have is shared primarily through my preaching, teaching, life-counseling and writing projects much more weighty than these columns that are limited to roughly 750 words. My columns are opinions — not deeply researched, peer-reviewed arguments, conclusions and applications. If you want those, come hear me preach or buy one of my books.
So, here’s my opinion of what we’ve learned during the past three months. First, we’ve learned that, in reality, we’re pack animals. We don’t do well alone even if you, like me, are an introvert. While some of us love our alone time, very few of us thrive when cut off from other human contact. Turns out, we were made for community, for conversations, for sharing life’s events and emotions no matter how ordinary. The ancient word for this is “fellowship,” which comes from a Greek term that goes beyond simple gathering to express the benefit of living life together. Simply put, life is better when it is communal, when it is shared with family, friends, neighbors and even friendly strangers.
Have you, like me, caught yourselves waving at total strangers on your walks? Have you, like me, initiated conversations over the wall as you realized there was another human out in their yard, too? And have you schlepped your lawn chairs out to the driveway so you could join the other families in a new-look block party?
And, have you, like me, come to realize Zoom and FaceTime ultimately don’t deliver the interaction they promise? We were created for community and perhaps nothing has made that more evident than being deprived of it during this season.
The second thing we’ve learned is – forgive me here! – nobody really knows what’s going on, nobody has all the pertinent facts, and nobody can provide us with how we should actually feel or act in this crazy, biased and click-bait-driven world. There, I said it. By now we’ve realized what’s true today won’t be tomorrow. What’s helpful in this article is debunked in that one. Everyone has their own graph, model and prediction. And let’s face it, we all tend to believe and share the news that fits our own narrative, a narrative grounded on our hoped-for outcome in the November elections. All of this has greatly dulled our national discernment and served to exacerbate the problem.
The result is that we all feel extremely vulnerable. Take away the life-giving power of human fellowship, and the mind-calming reality of truthful truth, and you’re left with the low-grade fever of anxiety and frustration that pulsates in the psyche of our daily existence. Yes, we can manage it, but we’re all realizing its soul-eroding effect.
So I offer this suggestion. We’re in the shape we’re in because we’ve become too comfortable with being comfortable. We’re outraged that our normal has been invaded by unwanted chaos, and we really don’t know how to deal with it.
It is time to admit we’ve become a soft people. We’ve outlawed adversity and made personal comfort King. We see discomfort as not only inconvenient but as an actual evil perpetrated by someone who must pay. We no longer are hardy, tough, able to discern truth from error simply because we’ve pursued comfort at the cost of mental and emotional tenacity.
What do we do? The solution is easy. Be what has always been an American trait. Let’s get rugged again and self-sufficient. Let’s be prepared to stand firm in the storms of life, while at the same time ready to sacrifice our comfort to build character and serve one another. Lastly, let’s develop a strong sense that we can find contentment in every situation while never becoming complacent.
I look around and also in the mirror and find we’ve become demandingly complacent in our comfort. We think life always owes us convenience and calm. But the idea that life is always going to fit our desires is a fairy tale. Life is a journey filled with obstacles, detours and washed-out bridges. Those who are unprepared, who insist life owes them comfort and convenience, will fall and often never get up. That can’t be us, not now, not ever. There’s simply too much at stake.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.