“…Prepare the way of the Lord…” — Isaiah 40, Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, Godspell, Days of Elijah … etc.
We are living in troubling times at which anxiety is at an all time high. The threats that fan the flame of fear are real: terrorism, mass shootings, and economic uncertainty are creating a relentless atmosphere of stress. Health concerns — from diseases we can’t seem to kill to mental health anguish we can’t quite tame to medical bills we surely can’t pay, and environmental factors on which we surely can’t agree — are causing us all to be sick either physically, mentally, or at heart.
And I swear I can hear evil chuckle as we buckle to the impulsive urge to DO SOMETHING! … which distracts us from the something we were already called to do.
Our world is filled with brilliant thinkers, brave warriors, self-giving humanitarians, gifted teachers, and creative geniuses.
I believe one of the most important things each of us can do to help stem the flow of fear, uncertainty, and doubt is this:
Do what you are gifted and called to do at this time as well as you possibly can.
If you are a student, study, write, calculate, ask, and learn. Your minds are the greatest asset this world has. It is our best hope. Sharpen it as if the whole world is depending on you. Because it is.
If you are a teacher, prepare as if you are teaching for the very first time. If your lesson plans bore you, write new ones. If your students are unruly, build in more structure and make time to cultivate trust with the troublemakers — or find a way to put them on the bench. Teach as if the whole world was depending on you. Because it is.
If you are a parent of young children, redouble your efforts to shape them. Take them for walks and encourage their curiosity. Read to them every day. Care for yourself so you have patience. Love them, lift them, listen to them.
If you are retired and feel like your best days are behind you, use your wisdom to encourage and calm those who do not have the benefit of your perspective. We need your voice and we need your faith. Write notes. Give hugs. Let them know you are on their side.
I believe this is the best thing that anyone can do to help counter the fear that threatens to paralyze, divide, or otherwise compromise us.
If we allow ourselves to react to the pressures we are experiencing, we will become a disorganized mob, each running in a different direction and engaging in activities for which we are not gifted and to which we are not called.
If we imagine ourselves as part of a huge network of gears, if any one gear stops rotating, the entire machine comes to a halt.
Contrary to what some people believe, I do not think every person rushing to buy a gun (even if they take a class) is either wise or helpful. Our military receives extensive training not JUST in how to shoot, but in how to control the impulse to shoot; how to know when a threat is real or perceived; and how to work with other soldiers to ensure the best possible success in a mission.
The average person is NOT trained to be a soldier, in part, because that is not who they were created to be. Soldiers are called just as teachers are called. It is arrogant and ignorant to think that everyone, with minimal training, is equipped to do the job that someone else has had extensive training to do.
Yes, we need a strong military. And we also continue to need leaders, firefighters, coaches.
We need doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists.
We need parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
The truth is: we need, more than ever, to focus on who we are and what we are called to do. And the good news is that if we do this, we also set ourselves and one another free from the burden of having to solve and resolve all the problems that are ushering in this debilitating and unwanted anxiety.
Do the job you have right now to the very best of your ability. And allow others to do the same.
Let the pastors preach, and let their sermons feed you.
Let the military strategize, and pray for their protection.
Let the teachers teach, and trust their plans for helping students learn.
Believe in one another and stay the course.
Running in different directions only increases the chaos — causing confusion is a primary strategy of the evil one. We are a nation that loves to compete — and that is a game we can only win by refusing to play.
Focusing and working hard to contribute your unique gifts to the greater good will lessen anxiety and disable fear. Focus on life and on doing what you were called to do while you are living.
In this way, we will each — together — prepare the way for the Lord.