Updated: Mar 21, 2020
I know none of you can relate to this, but I’ve been stuck at home for the majority of the last week. Seeing clients from home via internet took a little getting used to, but the major disruption came a day or two before the world turned off.
My wife and I don’t normally have loud fights. Heck, we really don’t fight too much at all. It’s a blessing since the majority of what I do is try and teach people to let things go so that they can have an amazing relationship with the people they love. That being said, fear has an insidious way of worming its way into someones life and turning things upside down. So imagine if you will that a crazy virus outbreak has plagued your hometown (I know this will be hard). And not only has it begun to strike panic into the local populace, but it just so happened to land on the week of your family vacation to go visit in-laws.
My first thought was, “I’m canceling the family vacation.” BUT my mind immediately went back to a failed attempt around 11 years ago. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as a viral outbreak. Instead, a winter storm was hitting all along the interstate between Dallas, Texas (our new home at the time) and Birmingham, Alabama (our destination). I unilaterally decided the roads would be too dangerous for us to travel with our newborn daughter, and I thought my wife would be happy I was looking out for the family. Instead I was met with tears, and these were not sadness tears people. These were tears that carried behind them the fury of a thousand suns. I just didn’t know it because I was young, stupid, and emotionally unaware. Because there is a multitude of possible reasons for tears coming from a human being, and it doesn't always indicate sadness. Needless to say, my plan was scrapped, and we drove through the night ahead of the storm. We made it to Alabama exhausted, but in one piece.
Now that was 11 years ago, and I learned my lesson. Or so I thought. Surely age and experience would give me the ability to navigate this new family vacation disaster. And with the subtle skill of a seasoned family counselor and the resolve of an expert battle hardened commander, I came up with the perfect plan. Unfortunately for me, fear had begun to sink its tentacles in and I didn't even realize it was happening. That's because fear has its way of getting into your heart and mind in the most inconspicuous ways. Essentially, my fear to let my wife down for our family vacation was only superseded by fear for the children if we were to get stuck out on the open road. The combo of the two fears together really led to me going overboard with my planning.
What was originally going to be a relaxing drive to our home state turned into a scene from your favorite apocalypse movie. Instead of taking turns driving and watching after the kids, we were now going to take both SUVs. I was going to outfit them for war in case I needed to drive over zombies on the way to the gas pump. I would also load enough food rations in case we needed to survive in the wilderness for 3 months. And I would carry enough fire power to ward off any would be ran sackers coming after our supplies. Last but not least we would have enough gear and ammunition to hunt and fish should our supplies run low. The only thing missing was dry ice to go into the cooler that would preserve our vegetable seeds for the next fall and spring.
It was the perfect plan if I do say so myself. So imagine my consternation when my wife, through tears (again, not sad tears), said, “I just don’t even want to go if you’re going to do all that!” I was floored. My plan should have put her at ease and give her the vacation she wanted. What really happened was my fear led to fear in her. And now she’s torn too. Do I give in and let my husband’s super helpful and amazing plan put a damper on my comfort index? (Her words not mine.) Or do we just cancel the trip and completely disappoint everyone who was hoping to see us?
Thankfully, the government would step in a couple days later and solve our problem for us. My SUVs are not war machines (yet) and we’re hunkered down in place till this thing passes. Strange times, but there’s always lessons to be learned.
Like don’t let fear tank your relationships. But don’t just ignore it either. There is such a thing as both of you being right. It’s called compromise and it’s what healthy people do in difficult circumstances. And there is nothing like a difficult circumstance to give you practice at being healthy!
Second, don’t let fear cloud your judgement. I’m not one for positive pop-psychology phrases. And it drives me crazy when I see it being promoted. But the truth is that we have to be sober minded when fear is present. We need to discipline ourselves to accept influence from healthy sources. Like God, instead of Facebook. And our spouse...instead of Facebook.
Third, don’t let fear ruin your perspective. Fear would love for you to think, “This is the end.” But please don’t give up so easy. Learn to fight. Fight fearful thoughts that lead you to think you won’t survive (Philippians 4:8-9). Or better yet, fight those fearful thoughts that try and convince you you’re all that matters (1 John 4:18). Those thoughts say, “I’m going to get mine" and "I’m not thinking about anyone else because no one else is thinking about me.” That’s not tough bro. That’s called being a coward. Taking all the toilet paper (still beyond my comprehension BTW) is cowardly and an insult to being a man. Shoot, it’s an insult to being human. GET A GRIP, and gain some perspective. We need to shut down fear and start by letting those who are less fortunate, or alone in this, know that we’re going to be looking out for them too. Send them a text or join a ministry team that will be delivering meals, notes, or medical supplies.
Fourth and final. Be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I know I say this a lot. But that’s only because it’s so paramount . If you can discipline yourself to be thankful you can accomplish so much. Trust me, things can be worse. So be thankful that we get to spend the next few weeks with our loved ones watching Netflix. That truly is history in the making. The first viral outbreak where we can literally stay at home and be this comfortable. Me thinks everyone from the time of the bubonic plague in the middle ages would have loved to have had Netflix. Oh yeah, and vaccines and stuff too.
So to end. Take care of yo family, take care of yo spouse, and take care of yo neighbors. And DO NOT let fear mess you up in the head.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?" Matthew 6:25