This morning, I woke up in the middle of a really cool dream. In it, I was walking through the local grocery store when "Fear No More" (by Building 429) came over the PA system as the next muzak song. I noticed the opening piano riff, and when I looked up, every face that I passed was singing the lyrics. Young and old, male and female, black and white, Eastern and Western, rich and poor, friend and stranger, even a few faces that I recognized as persons from my waking life who would not, who should not, even know the song. One lyric line at a time, I watched this song be sung by my community. It was a really cool way to wake up.
The truth is that most of us are fear-weary right now. For two months, every headline has been fear. And when that fear doesn't seem to be working any more, they change the headlines and give us something else to be scared about. And none of it seems to be about what's actually happening right now, but most of it is about things that haven't happened yet that they swear are next. You can't think about today, they insist; you have to be worried about tomorrow.
Last night, I was speaking with two dear friends, two women who I love dearly. One was struggling because she just doesn't see how we ever get out of this, how anything ever gets better in a world that seems to continue to predict it will only ever get worse. With the headlines and the restrictions and the precautions pressing in on her and always knowing there is one more thing, one more thing, one more thing to be scared of, she just can't see a way out. The other was concerned about a mutual friend who she says may never be unafraid again. This person has been so locked into fear by all of the goings-on in our world that she may never be psychologically able to go out of her house, go into a store, sit down at a restaurant ever again.
And it's not just these two friends. Stories of this kind of fear, of these kinds of burdens of fear, are being shared all across the world. Actually, many of them are simply being felt and not shared. So let me pause for a moment and say this: it's perfectly okay for you to talk about this stuff. It's okay for you to share what you're actually feeling with someone who loves you. There is no shame in saying that the fearmongering of this world is getting to you. Whether you are someone who believes the fear is warranted or someone who believes it's not, the truth is that it is taking a toll on us.
We were not meant to live this way.
Think about the words that God most often spoke to His people. Don't be afraid. Be not afraid. Fear not. Never fear; your Lord is here. Okay, maybe not that last one. But there are just a ton of places in Scripture where God told His people not to be afraid. And our current situation shows us exactly why fear is so devastating to life.
The kind of fear that we're in right now doesn't give us the luxury of our present. None of us lives today right now. They keep pushing us into tomorrow, into the things that are going to happen, into higher numbers and greater fatalities and new mutations and strange restrictions and just a thousand things that we couldn't have fathomed three months ago. And when even one of these little things comes true - like in April when they said there might be a time where we are all wearing masks in public and now, in May, here we are - we can't help but live in an unpredictable future. We spend our entire lives wondering what's coming next. We can't settle into today; today isn't even real. What's real is tomorrow, and it's coming.
It hasn't come yet, though, so we can't live there, either. There's no way to live into an unknown future. We cannot prepare for what we can't see coming. And the way that the talk about tomorrow changes every day, there's no use in even trying. (This has always been the way with 'science,' by the way. It's why one week, you see a study saying that drinking a glass of wine every night is good for you and a week or two later, it turns out that it will probably kill you.) So we can't live in the present because it's already changing into the future, and we can't live into the future because it's changing before it even gets here.
And we certainly can't live in the past. Because every piece of information we're getting right now tells us that we're headed toward a "new normal" - that everything we've ever known is going to be gone or going to be so dramatically changed that we won't even recognize it. Whatever you've done for ten, twenty, sixty, eighty years is now not only obsolete, but a tremendous threat to your very life, so you might as well let go of it.
All of a sudden, if you don't have a present and you don't have a future and you don't have a past...what on earth are you supposed to do? How, then, should you live? You can't.
Which is precisely why so many of us, all around the world, are feeling paralyzed right now. Paralyzed and grief-stricken. Our lives have been sucked empty, and it's not by the virus; it's by the perpetual fear that seems to be driving the story right now.
This is why fear is an enemy. This is why God says do not be afraid. We weren't meant to live like this because the truth is, we can't live like this. We're breathing, but so very, very few of us are living right now. At least, that's what I'm hearing from the persons I'm talking with. You probably are, too. And you may even be hearing it from the mirror. Again, hear me: It's okay to talk about it.
But a dream like I had last night reminds me of the spirit of human beings. It reminds me of who we are. We know we aren't meant to live like this, and we're resilient. And I know it's not going to come easy for a lot of us, but I believe in my heart that the day is coming when our fear just...breaks. When we just come out of it and get our stories back. When we start to root ourselves in something again, stake a claim at least for our present. Probably our present first. And then our past, because there are going to be things we just aren't willing to let go of. And finally, for our future, because you can put all the nightmares in front of us that you want to, but human beings just do not stop dreaming. We do not stop hoping. We do not stop longing for all the goodness of God that He's promised us, that we know is real.
And I think the day is coming when we start to sing together again. When one song comes off our lips. Young and old, black and white, male and female, Eastern and Western, rich and poor, friend and neighbor...the day is coming when our lives just erupt again like a Broadway musical, where right in the middle of the story, there's this song and dance and smiles in the street and we just seem to be choreographed in hope. I believe that day is coming. I believe it's coming so much that I just keep living it, waiting on one more person, one more person, one more person to join me.
The day is coming when we fear no more. It is.
If you're having trouble seeing that right now, that's okay. It is. If you need to talk about it, let's talk. I'm here. I have enough hope for the both of us, and I'm happy to share. As I've said from the very beginning, if I can be a beacon for you in this darkness (or in any darkness), let me know. If you're afraid today, I can understand that.