We’ve had it relatively easy at our house ... God’s been good to us. Not much of a problem surviving a pandemic ... we just kind of took the whole thing in stride. But let me tell you about the one funny way the corona virus has affected me ...
I put off wearing the mask for as long as I possibly could, because I really don’t go very many places where I need it. The grocery store was the main place, but they didn’t require it, so I didn’t bother. But then they changed their policy and required it. I grumbled, but complied. And it wasn’t so terrible.
I bought a pack of the disposable ones, but didn’t like those. When I found out that one of the waitresses at the Broadway Diner was making them, I bought a few from her, and they are much better! So comfortable! And washable! Thank you, Charlotte!
So for a few weeks I bopped about town, running my errands and being the happy, compliant citizen I should be.
But then I noticed something ... something disturbing ... and I’m not happy about it.
First you need to know that I live in the south. And we southerners are friendly folk ... even hermits like me. For southerners, a trip to the grocery store isn’t just about hunting and gathering your sustenance ... it’s a social event.
When we pass you in the aisles, we will make eye contact, smile, and say hello. If we bump into your buggy – even if it was your fault – we will fall all over ourselves apologizing and making jokes about being bad drivers and the need for traffic cops in the aisles. When we’re waiting in the checkout line behind you, we are as likely as not to make small talk with you about the weather and what brand of ice cream is your favorite. We will avoid discussing politics with you until you accidentally let some comment slip and we find out we’re both on the same side ... then we’ll run with it. And if you just happen to be into college football, well, just wait for us to get through the checkout line, too, and we’ll finish that discussion in the parking lot ... no matter who’s on which side!
There’s no such thing as a stranger in the south. We just have lots of friends we haven’t met yet!
If you come here from somewhere else and feel a bit put off by all this forwardness, just know that our intentions are totally benign. We’re not trying to pry or find out your secrets. We’re not flirting with you or trying to invade your personal space. And we’re quite capable of picking up on the signals you send us ... if we get the sense that you’d prefer us to just back off, we can do that, too. We certainly don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable or invaded. We’re just friendly and interested.
But picking up the signals ... that’s the key ...
After just a few trips to the store wearing a mask, I noticed how very difficult it is to read people’s expressions and signals when their faces are half covered. Are they smiling? Are they sneering? Am I getting one of those looks that say I’m shy and cautious, but so glad you spoke to me! Or maybe the message was Nutty lady, back off!
The eyes may be the window to the soul, but I frankly need the rest of the face to be able to read and interpret the message accurately.
And it works in reverse, too ... before I could just smile at people, sending a non-verbal, safe and comfortable Hello! Now, because of my mask, people don’t know if I’m smiling, sneering or just staring them down! Yikes!
God uses these as teaching and growing-me-up moments ... Well, He says, Why don’t you just open your mouth and simply say Hello?
He always seems to have solutions that don’t appeal to me.
Despite my friendly, southern heritage, I still tend to be on the guarded, self-conscious, awkward side of things. I tend to be bold when writing and drawing and a lot more guarded and timid with face-to-face encounters. One way this recluse has learned to hide well in public places is to play it safe by staying quiet and in the background. I can smile and be friendly without the messiness and effort it will take to actually engage another person. I justify it by labeling it “southern politeness” and not being too intrusive. And I always come home feeling like I interacted with people. But it’s just pretend. I didn’t interact with anybody! There’s a word for that ... it’s called self-deception!!
God loves me and He’s not very happy with that. And if I’ll love Him back and cooperate with Him, He’ll help me work through my awkwardness and self-consciousness, and I’ll come out on the other side more confident, more secure in Him, and more connected to Him and others.
So learning this new lesson isn’t going to be fun for me. It’s going to be clumsy, painful and awkward, and it will take lots of time and patience! I will try and fail. Then try and fail. Then try and have a tiny victory. Then try and fail. Get up. Try again. Do a little better ... this is how this works. The more I obey and cooperate, the better it will go. The less cooperative I am, the harder and more painful it will be. But in the end it will be life-changing, empowering and maturing! You will never know an earthly love like the love you get from Him Who will not leave you in the sorry state He found you in! He is so amazing!
Our lives and our world have an invisible spiritual component to them that is much more important than the physical realm we can see and touch. The physical world is just a manifestation of our real, spiritual selves and lives. So when we have physical problems ... sickness, division, pain ... our tendency is to fight our perceived physical enemy ... a virus, the doctors, the politicians, governors, mayors, other countries, other races ... and we certainly need to tend to our physical lives. It would be foolish to disregard the physical safeguards and needs of our families and our world. It’s also foolish to blindly follow leaders without questioning and challenging their motives and methods and end goals.
Ultimately, the origins of our true enemy and our battles are spiritual. We need to be wise. Our clever enemy loves it when we attack and destroy each other. That’s his end goal ... our destruction! And many times we cooperate with him and, in fact, do the deed for him!
I know my little problem of being socially awkward is pretty silly and unimportant in the light of what other people are going through these days. But there’s a good lesson here, too.
I found myself grumbling about the masks ... feeling so isolated just from not being able to read the expressions on strangers’ faces. All that grumbling did nothing to solve my problem. And in fact, it would have eventually made me even more isolated from friends and families who would grow tired of it!
But God always has a better way. Grumbling is easier and way more fun for now, but the consequences won’t be so good in the long run. His Way is hard for me and won’t be fun at all. But the in the end, my life will be so much better!
I don’t know who might need to hear this ... but I want to issue a challenge to myself and whoever else might be interested ... you and I can’t change the world, but with His help and by cooperating with Him, we can change ourselves and have a positive influence within our little spheres. And that’s really important. Even if we don’t understand it.
So before we take to Facebook and Twitter to complain, rant and attack our perceived enemy, let’s get alone with Him and find the better path. And real victory. For ourselves and our families.
We CAN overcome!