It’s been longer than I’d like since I’ve written a blog, but the weight of many things has driven me to break that silence. I’ve definately gone longer before, but never combined with this much on my mind. The problem is that I can’t seem to find the words for everything I am feeling, or solid opinions on the things I am thinking. Between the earthquake in Haiti, the continuous political tension that plagues our country, a deadly virus that continues to wreak havoc, and the horrific realities for Afghanistan…
I feel helpless.
I’m still a privileged white American who has the luxury of watching the world fall apart from the comfort of my safe home, through the lens of some screen that I can turn off at any moment.
I can choose to not watch the news. I can choose to not go on social media. I can choose to not look up any information regarding the situation. When I make these choices, I can go about my day as if none of these problems exist. Because in my world they don’t. I have so many choices when so much of the world does not. I understand that we have to care for our souls, boundaries are good, and taking care of our own mental health is important. But what do I do with the tension that surrounds the reality of my privilege in times like these?
Here are five things that have helped me process how I should be reacting in the midst of these unpredictable times. It’s an explosion of thoughts, but I think there’s likely something here for everyone.
1. Get off of social media if you need to, but never “unplug” from reality.
I hear a lot of people recently express needing to get off social media because of it being a negative space and a constant reminder that the world is falling apart. Firstly I’ll say yes, FB specifically can be horribly unproductive, and if you need to get off of it then do what you need to do! But a lot of times when people say that, it’s because they really just don’t want to hear about these issues at all. Of course FB is not the place to go for the facts anyway (haha), but sadly many people do connect their presence on these platforms with being informed. Therefore their distance from social media (or even the news) really is their attempt at looking away completely. Think about everything happening in Afghanistan. Like I said, as Americans we are watching these things happen through a screen only, and we can simply look away if it’s “too much”. That’s literally the definition of privilege.
One of the biggest things that is evident from the life of Jesus though, is that he never looked away. Ever.
Absolutely get off of FB if it’s toxic for you! Or stop watching the news if you can’t sleep at night! But don’t look away. Just look somewhere different. The people of Afghanistan can’t just look away. The people of Haiti can’t just look away. The black community can’t just look away. People who are high risk, or have loved ones that are dying from COVID (or have already), can’t just look away. We have more than one “pandemic” happening and we shouldn’t be ignorantly looking away from any of them.
2. Be INformed, not CONformed.
Find news sources that you trust discussing these matters, and then STOP CLICKING ON EVERY ARTICLE YOU SEE REGARDING THE ISSUE. Seriously, stop it. It’s not going to bring you peace and you know it. I think a big problem right now, is people thinking they are informed about what’s happening in the world, when a lot of times we are really just conforming to other peoples opinions, rather than knowing the actual facts of the situation. This is really problematic because what happens is people are arguing about all of the wrong things. This causes more confusion and chaos, and will never create understanding. So please inform yourself appropriately, but then make sure you don’t venture down the blackhole of fake news and misinformation.
3. The world doesn’t need another opinion right now.
Guess what Olivia? Once you are informed, you don’t HAVE to share ALL your opinions with people! This is a really freeing concept for me because a lot of my anxiety surrounding these big issue topics, is feeling like I need to have an answer prepared if it comes up in conversation. I think giving our opinions on controversial matters is very important and can be impactful. But I think we can also normalize having opinions and not always needing to share them. As a healthy, straight, white, middle class American, I don’t think my opinions need to be brought to the table in every discussuion. Listening and educating myself on what’s happening in the world is how I am trying to go about life these days.
4. Stop saying things like “well God is still King” as a way to address these times.
Since I grew up in the church I am very familiar with “toxic positivity”. Toxic positivity can very often be a defense mechanism to keep us from dealing with things that make us uncomfortable. Sound familiar? In a faith setting it’s essentially the belief that because God is all powerful, we shouldn’t be caught up in negative mindsets or focusing on painful realities, because “everything happens for a reason.” That’s easy to say when it’s not you going through the tragedy. Try telling that to the people of Afghanistan right now. People’s lives, rights, and freedoms are literally being destroyed.
What I am not implying is that God is not still King in the midst of this madness, but that saying those types of words during these sorts of times specifically is a wrongly placed statement. Find something else to say! For example: “God’s heart is breaking, we need His wisdom on what to do and say.” If we are so quick to point people to God, we should be asking ourselves: If Jesus was on earth with us right now, how would he be responding to all of this? I think the church would be much more effective if we stopped with the “christianese” one liners ABOUT Jesus, and started just living LIKE Jesus.
Here’s one way I know he would be responding, which also brings me to my last thought…
The definition of lament is: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.
The night before Jesus was crucified he and his disciples went to a place called the garden of Gethsemane. This is where you see Jesus suffering internally as he processes what is about to happen. In this very real raw moment we see Jesus pleading with God “my father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Jesus is lamenting. He is “deeply grieved to the point of death” the scriptures say. And his disciples are sleeping!!!!!! Jesus is literally mourning his own death, and these people are checked out. The CSB version of scripture says it best in Matthew 26:40 where Jesus says to them: “couldn’t you stay awake with me one hour?”
This is a powerful comparison to times like these where people of faith are looking away in sadness and scrambling trying to make sense of it all. I imagine Jesus saying to us right now… “Can’t you stay awake with me? Pay attention.” Notice what Jesus says next to the disciples: “stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation”. So that you won’t enter into temptation? That may seem unrelated to all of this, but is it? Because in the same way aren’t we tempted in the context I’m speaking on as well? The temptation is what I have already mentioned…
to look away.
I imagine the disciples thinking the same as many of us do today: Why should we look when it’s painful to see and doesn’t effect me? The church has done a poor job of teaching people to mourn well. We preach hope and peace, but neglect hopelessness and pain.
I think the story of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane is a powerful reminder that lamenting needs to be a part of our faith journey if we are to truely experience relationship with Jesus. He didn’t want the disciples to sleep because he was calling them into a time of prayer. I believe that God is calling us into the same thing right now. If you think that is a small suggestion, then you underestimate the power of prayer. There is no such thing as a small prayer when you are praying to a big God. But prayer isn’t just about changing what is, it’s about aligning your heart with His. Right now God is lamenting. Join Him.
“stay awake and pray”
And how can you pray if you look away?