Monthly Archives: March 2020

When the Weird Guy Gets a Whistle

When I was a kid, my family was part of a social group for homeschoolers.  So, I’ve attended my share of carnivals, birthday parties, and fairs, mingling with families from a wide variety of …. (*cough)…. social skills.

If you want to conduct an interesting experiment with a group of people, hand everybody baggies full of cheap, plastic toys and just watch what happens.

Think of the standard party-favors; the kinds you might get from a vendine machine or from a rat in exchange for tickets at a certain Pizza-and-Arcade joint.    Think of tiny coloring books and hand-held mazes with balls in them and those “slider” puzzles in which all of the “slider” pieces are jammed and won’t move.

You know what I’m talking about?

3.29.20 Party Favors

 

But, most of all, I want you to imagine the noise-makers…  Hand clappers or kazoos or those little slide whistles!

Every 6-year-old loves a good slide-whistle, right?  Usually, the little kids get their hands on those things and then procede to drive everyone else crazy.

That’s why I’ll always remember the time I had to watch in horror while a “grown-up” parent ripped into one of those baggies, found a slide-whistle, and played it LOUDLY and incessantly, for the remainder of the party. 

Even as a very young child myself, I could tell there was something WEIRD happening:

No one else seemed to be enjoying the Weird Guy’s whistling as much as the Weird Guy was.   Why didn’t he notice?

He was laughing and marching and whistling with reckless abandon. He tried for what seemed like an eternity to master “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Eventually, he invited everyone to gather around and listen while he performed his shrill concert. He seemed completely oblivious to the fact that his noise made other people more and more uncomfortable, the longer it continued…

I was barely 9-years-old, and I was already learning some things about “Tooting My Own Horn.”  Suddenly, I wasn’t interested in playing my own slide-whistle, because I didn’t want to be as annoying as the Weird Guy.

While I tried to process all the “icky” feelings I got from watching a tone-deaf adult make a fool of himself, the biblical warnings against pride and self-focus began to take root in my mind…

Suddenly, I was convicted with a hard truth:

“Even if the little kids are tooting their own horns, the mature people are practicing self-awareness and self-control. I want imitate the mature people.”

—–

These days, social media gives us the chance to see the “Slide-Whistle Experiment” on a huge scale.  We’re constantly inviting each other to come listen to our concerts. “Look at me! Isn’t this GREAT?!”   The situation is ripe for growing some ugly pride.

Look around yourself! I guarantee, there are some Weird Guys at your parties, too. They’re loudly playing their own whistles and having a great time, never stopping to consider how their actions affect others…

Just make sure that YOU aren’t the Weird Guy!

Remember: everyone else has the same baggie of toys.  If you (and the toddlers) are the only ones blowing your whistles, ask yourself why that might be.

Faith and Preparation CAN Co-exist

I saw this quote today, and I really liked it.

“Allowing current events to bring you to fear is not of God. However, don’t let anyone tell you that using precautions is a lack of faith.  Faith and Wisdom CAN coexist.”

I would actually take that idea a step further. I would say Faith and wisdom (which leads to precautions) MUST coexist.

I would say to Christians: your #1 job on earth is to “prepare” continually!  You are commanded to keep preparing your hearts, at all times. You are meant to continue working out your salvation and preparing yourself for the Kingdom of God. 

Now, some of you may feel like I switched horses there, because the quote was clearly talking about physical preparations and I hit you with a spiritual angle. So let me explain how physical preparations can (and should) lead directly into spiritual submission to God.

Yes, we should be aware of whatever calamities are currently threatening the world.

Furthermore, we should weigh what the experts are saying and work to discern what is true and what isn’t.

Finally, we should do whatever we are able to do in order to love our neighbors and lift burdens and live as selfless, compassionate caretakers of our physical worlds.   Yes–yes–we should take “precautions” for tragedies, as far as we’re able, for the sake of our families/communities.

But, as we begin honestly asking ourselves just how much we, as humans, can realistically do to prevent those tragedies and achieve perfect safety/well-being, at some point we ought to come face to face with our own inadequacy. 

At some point, pretty quickly, we ought to confront the inescapable and terrifying reality of just how out-of-control we are. 

Maybe I’m talking about pollution, or maybe I’m talking about the Amazon rainforest being on fire, or maybe I’m talking about a viral disease which has literally captured the attention of EVERYONE on the planet.

We are all constantly at risk of something really awful happening for which (the experts will tell us) we’re not prepared.

We’re spinning on a gigantic mass of dirt and magma, lost somewhere in an impossibly large abyss of Nothingness, and on this planet with us are literally hundreds of thousands of things that are trying to go wrong at all times.  (The experts tell us “Everything tends toward disorder…”)

Of course, usually we don’t stop to really consider that fragility, so we’re able to go to work and school without dealing with an Existential Crisis and Panic Attacks. But, if you don’t feel a little bit of vertigo when you do pause to consider all the things that could catch you off guard–and then destroy life as you know it–are you even a human?

It’s like, everywhere we turn, we’re getting the message that our systems of survival are hanging by a thread. So we put our heads together and come up with strategies for coping, and then we share those helpful tips with our neighbors in effort to “prepare” as much as we can,…but we ought to be uncomfortably aware of just how little those precautions actually accomplish!

There are never many guarantees, except one: you’re guaranteed to die of something eventually.   And the “what if” associated with when and where and how can be overwhelming.

One tiny, little thing (literally, so tiny we can’t even see it) can change life as we know it in an instant… and are any of us ever fully prepared for that reality?

Again, I’m not saying we should give up trying and simply ignore the experts’ recommendations about how to mitigate damage in emergencies.

But, I truly believe our hearts need the most preparation of all right now.  In fact, I truly believe the opportunity to prepare our hearts is the entire purpose of why God allows those scary emergencies to happen.

Every chance to panic is also a chance to go back to the Big Picture and remember Who’s in charge.  Every reminder of our own mortality is a chance to praise God for his Divinity.

Our good deeds are filthy rags.  And ALL of our well-intentioned plans for tomorrow will only actually come to pass if God wills it, too.

Our policies and procedures often turn out to be mere illusions that we can help God keep the world spinning, if we just work hard enough. We not-so-secretly believe that we’ve advanced enough as a society to control our environments, with the right amount of human cooperation.

It’s at this juncture that our “precautions” quickly turn into a Tower of Babel scenario, where we pride ourselves on our collective knowledge, human effort, and good safety plans to get us through the storm.

Who do we turn to first when we’re worried?  (Government?  Healthcare professionals?)  And who do we thank when we manage to survive?   (Fellow Humans?)  Too often we congratulate each other when the threat subsides…

“Thank you, Scientists and Doctors!”

“Oh, no, thank YOU, average citizens! we couldn’t have done it without you following our Commandments…”

“Thank you, Government!”

“Oh, you’re very welcome! We’re here to print money and make promises we aren’t really qualified to keep, whenever you’d like.”

“Yay, us! Go Team! We did great!”

(Oops. Now time to move on to the next Very Serious Threat…stay tuned…)

Unfortunately, there are just too many things trying to kill us all the time to take the level of “precaution” that a non-Christian might want you to take.

There’s no way for all of us to operate at Maximum Preparedness for all possible Threats all the time.

The climate scientists have been warning us about an Ice Age for decades. Astronomers tell us we’re overdue for a devastating asteroid. There was panic about the Amazon rainforest being on fire less than a year ago (It’s actually still on fire, like it always is, but suddenly we’re not “preparing” for that anymore.)

At some point, we should be asking ourselves if maybe–just maybe–all of these constant, scary, out-of-control things are here by God’s grace as a reminder that we are mists and then we vanish.

Maybe, we should consider that God is always trying to remind us of our own fragile existence, so that we will be utterly dependant on Him for our hope?

I definitely believe our human preparedness can lead us into Wisdom.

Through our weak attempts at managing this chaotic Planet, we are wise when we seek God and end up resting in HIS Safety Plan.

As we grow in this Wisdom, we can laugh at the days to come, knowing we’ve done everything for which we’re responsible (which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a whole lot)–and yet the God of the Universe makes it enough because He’s here playing His much, much bigger part.

Man, I have so much more to say about this.

But I am responsible to prepare for dinner tonight. And I would be wise not to say, “Meh, I have faith that God is going to meet this need for my family, no matter what I do!”

Let’s keep talking about the overlap of faith and “preparation” in the coming days, okay?

Mom Instincts, Selfishness, and National Emergencies

Let me break it down:  even a really, really mild disease becomes a catastrophe when everybody runs to the doctor to be seen for it.

The problem is, we mothers have been encouraging each other to do exactly that for years now, in the name of being “cautious.”

We regularly tell our friends “trust those Mommy Instincts” when it comes to their sick families. We tell them to go ahead and visit the doctor to get some antibiotics for peace of mind, just in case it could turn into something serious, because it’s better to be safe than sorry.

This way of dealing with sickness isn’t sustainable, especially when there’s a national emergency. But nobody wants to talk about the ways our mommy groups are actually contributing to the spread of unnecessary anxiety.

Well, I mean, SOME of us are talking about it.  (*Raises hand*)   A few months ago, I wrote this:

“It’s an age-old tale.

Mother gets creepy feeling.

Mother posts pictures and a scary story on social media and asks everyone to share it.

Thousands of equally-concerned mothers assure each other that embracing their paranoia is a good thing because it’s “better safe than sorry” when it comes to their children…”

We also recorded an episode of the podcast where we discussed the danger that can come from bad Mom Advice telling us to take action and fight to ensure the professionals help solve our imagined problems.     (You can listen by clicking here.)

At the time of my blog post and podcast recording, we were focusing on women who are worried their kids will be snatched and sold into sex slavery.  But it’s an eerily similar situation when too many women think their kids are going to catch a virus. It starts with fear.  Then our peers encourage us to lean into that. Trust it!   And soon, we are taking a trip to have our fears calmed by a doctor who will look in our mouths, tell us to rest, and generally validate our emotions.

(In the case of suspected child abduction, the emotional pay-off comes from calling the police and telling them, “I got a weird feeling about a guy in the produce aisle.”  But, again, same outcome.)

The problem is, there aren’t enough policemen to handle all the reports if everyone simultaneously starts acting like Karen and worrying about every stranger supposedly following them at Walmart. 

And, likewise, there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, and lab technicians to handle a stampede to the hospital, when Karen convinces all of us to go every time we feel sick! 

Karen, let me help you understand:   it isn’t necessary to stare into the eyes of someone wearing a white coat just to hear them say, “Yep. You’re sick.”

There is no cure for your fever. No cure for your cough. No cure for your viral gastrointeritis and your viral pneumonia. The doctor can’t make the symptoms go away any faster, and you can buy non-prescription pain relievers to make you more comfortable while your body fights the germs without his help. 

He can’t fix you. And he’s also too nice and professional to say, “For the love of God, stop bringing your nastiness to my office.”

So just stay home.

When you feel yucky, stay home. Stay home. Stay home.

I know, you feel productive when you go to the hospital, like you’re really taking charge of the situation.

I know there’s something fun about taking pictures of your kid in a gown, with a band on his wrist, so you can post on Facebook asking for prayers.

I know it lends more credibility in your mommy groups, when you can announce, “we went to the doctor and got confirmed: it’s Influenza A!”     But going to the doctor and having a Proper Name for your symptoms doesn’t actually help you recover.

Visiting the doctor does something for your emotions, but not usually your body. 

And even more importantly, when EVERYONE starts behaving that way, it keeps the really sick people from being able to get help. We’re using up antibiotics we don’t need. We’re infecting healthcare workers who have real work to do.

They can tell you “drink liquids and get lots of rest” over the phone. Can you learn to be okay with how boring and unsatisfying that is?

Even when you’re tired of dealing with sickness and looking for something to do, the ER or doctor’s office should not be treated as a way to kill time while YOUR BODY DOES THE HEALING ON ITS OWN.

—–

Now, maybe you’re reading this and you don’t identify as a “Karen.”

Maybe you are content to stay home when you’re sick, without the desperate need for a swab and a selfie to feel like you’ve really completed the “Sick Experience.”

That’s great! Really!

But, if you’re letting all the other Karens get away with promoting anxiety and taking advantage of the medical system when they don’t need it, can I ask you to consider speaking up next time?

When someone on Facebook says, “You should go to the doctor in case that illness turns into something more serious!” can you jump in and say, “No, please, please don’t do that.”

Right now, we’re all laughing at each other for hoarding toilet paper, and that’s a great start!

But now Karen needs to know that we’re also laughing when she takes Johnnie to the doctor for NO REASON.  We’re laughing because, if we don’t, we’ll flat out yell at her for being a self-absorbed drama queen who is taking time and resources away from people who actually need them.

Lots of people blame the Mainstream Media for its role in stoking fear in this culture, and that’s fair.  But, if it weren’t for all the average citizens…all the regular people…all the moms on Facebook praising each other for following their “mom instincts”… then the media wouldn’t have anyone left to control.

Some of the responsibility to stop the viral spread of Fear is ours. Don’t contribute. Don’t share it. Don’t validate it. Don’t tell your friends, “It’s a good thing you went to the doctor, just to be safe.”

Nope. That was a germy lie.

It’s NOT a good thing to treat doctors like our Personal Emotional Problem Solvers.  At best, those visits are totally unecessary. And at worst? That behavior reveals selfishness and irrationality which quickly becomes pandemic.