I am a risk-averse person by nature. Which isn’t to say I’ve never taken risks (or simply made stupid choices) — there are more of those than I’d care to count. But my instincts generally trend toward caution. Ask any of my high school friends and they’ll attest to the fact that more often than not, I was the one who’d suggest we dial things down a notch. Ask anyone who’s driven with me in the passenger seat “helpfully” pointing out the dangers ahead. Ask anyone who’s received an unsolicited “severe weather warning” report from me. I’m sure it all ties into a deep-seated need to feel as though I’m in control. Hey — we all have our issues.
That’s been one of the more interesting facets of my faith journey — recognizing that, while I do bear responsibility for my own choices and behavior, it is ultimately God who is truly in control. Scary in some respects, liberating in others. But I was reminded of that as I watched Sunday’s Easter service at my church. Ultimately our faith rests on a story of hope —
"The story of an empty tomb, of a good God, of a hope that's real…."
— Susie Moore (@SmoosieQ) April 4, 2021
It is, indeed, a hope that’s real — and one that requires us to acknowledge that we aren’t the center of it all. The pastor explains it all far better than I could ever hope to but he frequently reminds us of the need to “get to the end of ourselves,” or, as I think of it, “get over ourselves.” Man, oh man, do we need to learn how to do that.
There are many things I love about social media — the ease with which it allows us to connect and keep up with friends, family, colleagues, from near and far; the funny, witty memes and clever snark; the adorable puppy/kitty/animal videos and photos; the endless amount of information available at our fingertips.
That’s a double-edged sword, though, isn’t it? Sometimes, it’s more like an avalanche of information and no one has the time to sift through it all and discern what is “real” and what is “fake,” what is meaningful and what is fluff. We’ve taken to short-cutting it all by skimming headlines and 280 characters’ worth of spin. Depending on which sources and people you follow, it quickly devolves into unhealthy doses of confirmation bias or outrage — or both.
And that flow of information is a two-way street. The advent of social media has given virtually everyone a platform and so we trot through our daily lives with constant thought-bubbles above our heads for all the world to see. It’s amazing — but it isn’t necessarily all that conducive to healthy interactions with one another, particularly when we post first and think later. It also tends to breed self-absorption. We’ve learned to share our every thought and pose and then watch and wait for the likes and comments to feel validated. We’ve set ourselves and our online dramas up as idols. In short, we’ve made it increasingly difficult to “get to the end of ourselves.”
Never has that been more apparent than during the past 15 months. Between the pandemic, the riots, the election, and everything in between, we’ve got ourselves a fine mess. It’s easy to sink into a defeatist, negative attitude. To borrow from The Lego Movie 2…Everything’s Not Awesome. (Bear in mind, that song turns it around about halfway through, though.)
And woe be unto him (or her) who opts to question — even push back against — the orthodoxy embraced by the “establishment” (be it the media, the political class, the tech gods, corporate culture, academia.) We’ve developed an increasingly narrow lane in which it is permissible to travel. Don’t say this — you’ll be branded an “ist” or “phobe” of some sort. Don’t do this — you’ll be thought a Neanderthal. Don’t think this — your differing perspective is not welcome here. Step out of line and you’ll be canceled. Defend someone who’s stepped out of line and you’ll be canceled, too. HOW DARE YOU!?!
Somehow, we traded basic manners and common courtesy for puritanical policing of one another. The world’s become filled with joyless scolds. “Wear a mask!” “Join my rage mob!” “Check your privilege!” “Signal your virtue!” What a bunch of nincompoops. Yes — we need to get over ourselves!
I have news, folks — not a one of us is getting out of here alive — not in the mortal sense. In the whole scheme of things, our time here is brief. We may not be able to choose which obstacles we’ll encounter while here but we can choose how we address them. We can glower in anger or cower in fear. Or…we can look up and lighten up.
I’m over the fear — so very over it. I refuse to let it set my course any longer.
This isn’t to advocate throwing all caution to the wind — we should take reasonable precautions to avoid injury and illness (or inflicting them on others.) Nor is it a suggestion to dispense with filters and tact — just not to the point where we are perpetually apologizing for things over which we have no control or are petrified to speak at all.
For me, (in terms of the pandemic) that means respecting others’ space, continuing to be mindful about handwashing — I don’t even mind wearing a mask if a particular business/venue requests it, though I’ve a sneaking suspicion we’re going to see even that receding slowly but surely — while going on about my life. Whether that’s dining out or shopping or going to church or enjoying a meal with my extended family — I will do so joyfully, not with trepidation.
In interpersonal terms, it means making no apology for my skin color, my gender, my orientation, my age, my worldview, my political beliefs, or my faith. I can be all of the things that I am and love my fellow man just the same, remembering that we are all — each and every one of us — children of God. To quote my pastor from a recent service (which I wrote about previously):
“Every human life bears the image of God. You will never look into the face of someone for whom Christ didn’t come to seek and to save to the point of death.”
Ultimately, it means getting over ourselves and the fiction that we are in charge of everything and everyone. When we remember He’s got this and focus on living our lives to reflect His glory, there is no need to live in fear.