This month every human being on the planet will walk the same path together. Together, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and people of all religions will practice social distancing in their homes and their communities will endure death on a large scale. Its a valley of darkness similar to that described in Psalms 23:4. Every religion has a similar message, just told through different metaphors.
This darkness doesn’t come from the event itself. It comes from our personal temptations to allow the events to distract us from the light inside of ourselves.
I am regularly distracted from this light. Its so easy for me to keep checking the news and angrily judging people who aren’t practicing social distancing. Distraction is ok, it happens. But we can also catch ourselves and change focus rather than obsessing with the distracting pull of chaos. What allows us to catch ourselves? It’s grace, isn’t it? I’ve traveled the world over many times and have discovered that no religion has a monopoly on grace. Grace is inherent in our being human. So, not only can every human find the love in God’s rod and staff comforting us, but we can discover that there is no separation between that love and ourselves. This love is tailored just for you so perfectly that it cannot exist without you. In a way, we, ourselves, are that rod and staff that provides comfort in the valley of darkness. But here is the key, if we are the rod and staff, then not only can we be the source of our own comfort, but also the comfort of others. Through our attitude and actions toward each other, we can be the the light of the world.
So often, over the decades, everywhere in the world, we witness communities that come together in times of perceived crisis, only to turn our attention back to petty differences when the darkness passes. I use the word “perceived” because nothing is really a crisis if we know and believe we can navigate it with grace by our side. The difference between perceiving a situation as a challenge versus seeing it as a crisis is the extent to which we feel our belief in the rod and staff can waiver. I’m not advocating blind faith, but rather faith based on self-exploration, mindfulness and experience. It’s a knowledge without proof. I’m not saying faith can keep us healthy or change events, but it can change our attention and our comfort. Its a faith that love is never something we have to work to go find. We just have to stop distracting ourselves from seeing that it is all around us.
I believe this perceived COVID 19 outbreak can be perceived as grace. It is a challenge that can finally allows us to come together as a global community. This can be the event that encourages many of us to 100% commit to accepting the truth of our vast greatness. The greatness to see opportunities for kindness where fear and anger may tempt us. We will all be tempted on occasionally to turn back to our petty ways. But we can commit to remind each other, in a loving way, to keep our attention focussed on our similarities rather than differences.
I know it can be uncomfortable in social settings to encourage our friends to refrain from negative political discourse or personal gossip. There is sort of an enjoyment in being part of a group and complaining about others, or being all worked up together about the lates medical statistics. But its a shallow enjoyment and doesn’t help anybody. But here is what I have learned… it is not as hard as you may think to gently nudge the conversations back to positive topics. I can feel uncomfortable showing an unusual amount of love and vulnerability to strangers outside my immediate circle of friends. Being unusual in any capacity can hold me back from being honest to who I truly am. It’s important, though, to actually practice finding this comforting rod and staff within us. We can practice finding it in every single episode of our lives. And knowing that simply by having a rod and staff, it comes with the inherent authority to actually use it.
A challenge as significant as what the world is facing today shouldn’t be used to just make us better people or to improve ourselves just partially. Rather, let’s match the scale of challenge by going big. Lets fully embrace the lessons found in all religions and commit to finally accepting ourselves as a species that’s actually capable of being a beautiful light that encircles the planet. Individually, we may stumble as we practice this new way of being, but it’s impossible to fail on this mission unless we turn our backs on it and give up. Every encounter we have with every other human being either moves our global family forward or holds us back. We just have to commit to being done with the old way of life where we see the practice of unusual kindness and the belief in humanity’s goodness as being overly naive to the harsh reality of life. I don’t buy it, it’s just not true. I see this outbreak as not something happening to us but rather something happening for us. Let’s embrace the message of Psalms 23:4 and welcome grace into our lives and give it the attention it deserves in the days, weeks and months ahead. We have this infinitely amazing rod and staff eternally inside of us for a reason.