COLUMN: There’s something happening here

I’ve been noticing something lately with a lot of the people I interact with and that I see and hear online. There seems to be a certain feeling they are projecting that I’ve had a hard time putting my finger on. It’s there, it’s real, but what is it?

Yesterday I remembered a song from my youth that seems to sum up very well what I’m sensing. It was written in a different time and place and about a different situation, but the words still work:

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Written by Stephen Stills, performed by Buffalo Springfield (1966).

Clearly COVID-19 and our response to it is oppressing if not downright depressing people. I’ve seen people exhibiting some of the classic signs of depression, being tired all the time, not sleeping well, or finding it hard to get motivated.

Once this clicked with me I began to wonder why. If you’ve lost your job, then it’s completely understandable that you’d be down about that. But I know lots of people who haven’t lost their job but they are still showing clear signs of what I’ll call COVID-19 Syndrome. 

To tell the truth, I’ve felt some of it myself. But why? I don’t know anyone who’s starving, or being kicked out of their home, or who don’t have clothes to wear.  Most of us are doing okay, if not great in terms of survival. Things could be a lot worse, that’s for sure. So what’s going on here?

And then something hit me. What I’ve found frustrating about this, and many people throughout the country seem to be pushing back against, is the lack of control. All of a sudden the government is telling us what we can and can’t do, how we can do it and even when, by setting up curfews. As Americans, we value our rights to control our lives.

But now we are not in control.

Leaving the law aside for the purposes of this column, we are not in control of the virus itself. There’s nothing any of us regular people can do directly, to effect either the virus itself or what it does. We can try and avoid it, but we have absolutely zero control over it and what it’s done to our lives.

I had to smile when this popped into my little mind because it took me straight back to Spiritual Kindergarten. And I mean that literally because currently in our Wednesday night Bible study we’re going through a book with that title, it’s a look at the 12 Steps from a Christian Perspective. So far we’ve done the first two steps.

You’ve probably heard the first two steps; here they are as a reminder:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

If you substitute the phrase our powerlessness over our life in general for “alcohol” it begins to make some sense, doesn’t it? Kinda sounds like what many of us are living, but perhaps not admitting, right now.

I really believe that much, if not most of our current malaise, is directly connected to that feeling of helplessness that stems from not being able to control what’s happening in our lives. It’s a terrible feeling because people desperately want to be in control. That makes us feel both powerful and safe, and both feelings have a huge appeal to the human ego.

But the truth is, neither you nor I have control over much of anything at all. The only thing I really have control of in my life is what I say and do, and at least half the time I’m not doing such a great job of controlling that.

Control is an illusion. It is a comforting, desirable, and seductive illusion to be sure. But it is an illusion nonetheless.

So, if you’re feeling that COVID-19 Syndrome, take those first two steps, realize that you aren’t in control, and then rejoice in the freedom that recognizing and living in the truth can bring.

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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.

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