One question to help you navigate the Coronavirus crisis

Over the last couple of days, many of our lives have been turned upside down. It almost doesn’t seem real. The stock market is tanking, the NBA has suspended its season, colleges are switching to virtual learning environments and to top it all off, there is a toilet paper shortage the likes of which we have never seen. This is not the same world we lived in only a couple of weeks ago. We are in a genuine crisis.

I’m in the middle of grappling with anxiety, worry and fear. What does the future hold? How bad will this get? The answers we desperately crave are illusive. Still I’m comforted by an old adage my mom used to quote to me when I was young, “This too shall pass.”

Eventually, we will look at this time as “history”. With that in mind, one question has been reverberating with me during these last two or three days. Here it is, “10 years from now, what would I look back on and regret about my response to this crisis?”  

This is a helpful question for me because it gives needed perspective as well as a framework for how I want to live during this season.

So, what would I regret 10 years from now? Here are a few of my answers…

Not telling the people closest to me, “I love you”

If I am so consumed by worry that I can’t be present and show affection to the people I am blessed to have in my life, it would be a failure. I want to look back at this season and know that I expressed my love sincerely.

Not taking care of my family

Of course, this assumes that I am providing for them physically but I mean much more than that. Am I giving my kids a place to talk about their anxiety and fear or am I trying to get them to ignore it so that I can feel more comfortable? Am I able to care for my family by pointing them to a Father who loves them even more than I do?

Not looking for ways to bless people who are less fortunate than me

American culture says, “Make sure you are comfortable”. Following Jesus gives me the freedom to break beyond my own comfort and be a blessing to those around me. As I have heard more than once in my life, “We are blessed to be a blessing”.

Not seeking God and praying more

Yes, I know this could sound “uber-spiritual” but that’s not my intent. I find it curious that this crisis is hitting in the middle of Lent. It’s a season where millions of Christians around the world (including myself) are giving up significant things in their life for a season in order to reflect on God and depend on Him more deeply.

I’ve found that it’s a lot tougher to be consumed by worry when I am focused on God and asking Him to guide me. I hope that 10 years from now, I will be able to look back on this season and say I was closer to God and the people around me because I was intentional about listening to His voice over everything else.

Oh yeah! I’d also regret it if I didn’t wash my hands

“Trusting God” doesn’t mean I absolve myself of all responsibility to be a decent human being. Ensuring that I do what I can to not get sick and pass a disease along to other people seems like something I never regret.

So how about you? Does this question help you? What would you regret 10 years from now? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Choose wisely

Millions of Americans rushed to their local gym this past week with excitement and resolve. I should know. I’m one of them.

Over the years, I’ve tried to make exercise a regular part of my routine but a couple of months ago that “routine” became a little…well, let’s just say “sporadic”.

Maybe it started when I broke two of my toes. Perhaps my desire to spend more quality time with baked goods added to my lack of motivation. Whatever the reason, I realized I needed to start fresh.

Upon my return to the gym, I discovered something crazy. I had become weaker! The weights I once threw around with ease, were now were accompanied by involuntary grunts and groans.

It didn’t stop there. When I ran, I was considerably slower than before. I’ve never set any land speed records but even the thought of running at my previous speed made me want to hyperventilate. It was enough for me to ask myself, “What the Hans and Franz is going on?!!”

As I sat on the edge of my bench, looking like a face swap between a dejected Charlie Brown and a forlorn Mr. Clean, I had a realization. Yes, getting back into shape is a pain (in more ways than one) but there is also a valuable lesson to be learned.

Our bodies are gift to us. They teach us that the decisions we make turn us into the people we will become.

Even though we might not like it, we can understand the ramifications of our decisions on our bodies. For example, if I eat more than my fair share of Italian cookies and choose to skip the gym for a while, my physical well-being is going to suffer.

What is often tougher to see are the ways that we are affected emotionally, spiritually and intellectually by the decisions that we make.

Each of us has thousands of choices to make within the course of a day. In the end, our lives become the sum total of those decisions.

Does that mean we need to obsess over every little decision? No, but it may mean we take our daily choices more seriously.

Sometimes it’s helpful for me to look at extreme examples in order to grasp a concept. For instance, one of the biggest news stories of this past year was the rampant nature of sexual harassment across our country. I am thankful that this has become a national topic of discussion. Sexual harassment is an epidemic and it has to stop!

Interestingly enough, these stories have shown that sexual harassment isn’t a “conservative” or “liberal” problem. It doesn’t have its roots in what ethnicity or economic background you come from. At the core, sexual harassment is a heart issue.

My guess is none of the men who are accused of sexual harassment woke up suddenly one morning and said, “I’m going to start terrorizing women today”. Most likely, they came to that point after years of little decisions. One gray area turned into another and then another until finally they had become a person who could act so heinously without ever giving it a second thought.

So what’s the point? Are we all doomed to become pathological liars or abusers? I don’t think so. Still, our decisions may lead us to another tragic place. We may fail to be who we were designed to be.

Who do you want to become? Are the choices you are making today bringing you closer to becoming that person or taking you further away?

My prayer is that the decisions I make in 2018 will lead me closer living out my created purpose. I hope you’ll experience that joy too.

Gaston and the Beast

A couple of nights ago, our family finally got around to seeing the latest rendition of the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast”.

As expected, it was a visually compelling movie. I thought they actually did justice to two of the most memorable scenes from the first film.

“Be Our Guest” used cutting edge computer animation to capture the sense of excitement and wonder displayed in the original film.

The iconic scene of Belle dancing with the Beast was also done extremely well. In the cartoon version of the movie, that scene was so inspiring that one of my friend’s little girls turned to him and whispered wistfully, “Daddy. Someday I dance with a doggie?” I imagine similar sentences were uttered again in theaters across the country.

A lot has been written about this film from a ton of angles. I guess that’s what proves it is a good work of art. There are so many themes to discuss that it could be it’s own college level class.

Our family Cinema 101 discussion started as we were exiting the theater. Turning to my daughter I said, “Don’t ever marry a guy like Gaston!” (I think that one should be fairly obvious but it needed to be said). I went on to say, “Don’t marry a Beast either”. A guy who needs you to fix him isn’t worthy of your energy.

“After all”, I said, “What’s the difference between Gaston and the Beast? Isn’t it just the fact that Belle took the time to help one and not the other?”

By this time we were in our car and a big debate ensued. My son injected “No! It was that the Beast was open to change but Gaston wasn’t!” Wisely, my wife affirmed his observation.

Perhaps because we hadn’t been in an argument in two hours, I decided to challenge my son’s assertion. “But how do we know? Belle never gave Gaston a chance.”

I might as well have lit a match to a bunch of bottle rockets by the way the ideas were flying around the car.

In the end, one of the easiest ways to see how open Gaston and the Beast were to change was when trials came.

When Gaston discovers he can’t have Belle, he manipulates in whatever way he can to get his way. He sweet talks, he lies, oh yeah and he attempts murder! The whole time he deflects criticism away from himself.

Meanwhile, when the Beast is faced with the same situation, he chooses to let Belle go. This means a cruel fate for him and all the singing furniture in his house. This selflessness is the soil where true love grows.

My hope is that my kids will experience this kind of love in their lives. They won’t be caught in dysfunctional relationships centered in selfishness. I pray they will be people who are open to change and healing and they will find other people committed to the same.

Most likely, the biggest help I can be to them in that area is to model those things in my life and marriage to my “Beauty”. I want our relationship to point to a “Tale as old as time” that is beyond ourselves.