2020 is the year the world got sick and the wackos came out of the woodwork. Or so it seems.
I have never seen such strong polarization among the world as I know it. People’s emotions are on edge, the verbal sparring always threatening to overwhelm anyone wanting to engage in simple conversation. Feelings are hurt, friendships are disrupted, and an isolated population becomes even more alone.
I’ve spent some time trying to process everything, but my life has been so overwhelming that I haven’t had a lot of mental energy to sort through what all this year has brought.
In July we finalized the adoption of our precious little girl (hopefully I will post about that later!). Adding a fifth child to the family wasn’t so difficult in itself, but juggling all the appointments with new healthcare protocols in place made my schedule more complicated. I’m also used to taking my busy herd of children to work off some energy at the lake, or the library, or the park, and for a while none of those things were options. What is there to do with five children in a small house in town?
Besides that, navigating a (relatively) new culture drains me emotionally. I feel slightly silly about feeling “culture shock” in an American small town (in south-central Kansas, no less) where I’ve lived nearly six years. Living here is not at all like going overseas where everything from the language to food to family customs is completely foreign. Yet the loneliness can be intense. I realize that my birth culture was very, very different from the culture I’m living in now, and the only way to work through that adjustment is to face it, one piece at a time.
In addition to family and personal issues, work at the hospital has been stressful for me this year. Wearing masks has cut off my ability to communicate easily, and played on my already wavering sense of security and identity. My coworkers have been so willing to help me out when needed, but it’s humbling and hard for me. I wonder if I really qualify to be a nurse…if my skills are worth having in spite of the communication struggle.
I’ve had to push the public roar of disagreement to the back of my mind a lot of the time, and yet it’s an ever present thorn, a needling pain that refuses to go away and demands reflection.
What puzzles me most is people’s inability to listen to differing points of view, while they simultaneously turn an about-face on their previously-held values. It doesn’t make sense to me. I’m seeing a highly emotional response to world events more often than a thoughtful and careful analysis.
Regardless which side of things people fall on, “fear and control” is a label thrown around a lot, even though fear and control seems to be a driving force of even those who say they reject it.
I can’t make sense of the contradictions. How should I interact with the world around me? I wish I knew. I wish I had more wisdom, and more time to study things out. But at night when I’m trying to slow my racing brain down enough to sleep, a phrase from the Bible keeps slipping into my mind.
It comes with the warmth and gentleness that the Holy Spirit always brings. In the night, this is what I hear, “do not harden your heart.”
God speaks, and as He does so often, it comes from the words of Scripture.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness
Hebrews 3:8 (ESV)
I have never been more tempted toward cynicism than right now. But God calls me to listen to his voice, to keep my heart soft even when it hurts so much. Even when I want to tear down an illogical argument piece by piece.
Hardness of heart is a common denominator when Christians are no longer willing to listen to each other and to push aside the disagreements long enough to look at another person’s perspective.
Hardness of heart makes us greedy with our money. It makes us value our business and the economy above the health and well-being of others.
Hardness of heart will never stoop to saying, “I’m scared.” And it won’t either respond with “I’m sorry you are afraid. How can I help?”
This year is presenting Christians with a unique challenge, and most of us aren’t doing very well with it. Because of this, confusion reigns and opportunities are missed.
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
Ephesians 4:8 (ESV)
God is gracious, and amazingly willing to work with our humanity if we stop long enough to listen to Him. He wants us to be honest about our fears and questions while we make space for others to have fears and questions, too. But if we are going to hear Him, we have to let go of the need to be right.
Do not harden your heart. I’m starting to think that is the only way any of us can survive this pandemic without losing our souls.
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
Proverbs 28:13-14 (ESV)
If you hear God’s voice, do not harden your heart.
Do not let your heart grow hard.
Listen to Him.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV)