I thought I was doing well. I thought the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t getting to me. Then I started forgetting things.
This isn’t the kind of forgetting my wife’s grandmother experienced with Alzheimer’s. This is the kind of forgetting that comes from additional stress. It’s the kind of forgetting that reveals to others the stress a person is experiencing.
What was I forgetting? I was forgetting the passing of time and parts of conversation threads.
What we need facing the future
Leaders don’t like to admit they are affected negatively by stress. They are expected to have it all together, to be the ones who rise above stress, almost seeming to relish stress.
In these days of leading from a distance, a leader can polish his or her leadership before others see it, which adds to the impression they have it all together. In reality, leaders are struggling to put or hold everything together.
Leaders would rather you not know that. As a leader, I’d rather you not know when stress affects me. More so, I’d rather not be so affected by stress. I’d rather be superhuman.
We want our leaders to be human, but not human like us. We want them to be superhuman. We want to be able to identify with our leaders, but not so much that we can’t look up to them. After all, if our leaders are just like us, why should we let them lead us?
We need to let struggling leaders lead us because we need to see how struggling people, not polished people, get through hard times. And these are hard times. They may not be the worst, but they do call for more than the status quo.
We all are struggling with the stress of the current pandemic, whether we realize it or not. To meet the stress of our current circumstances, we must be creative, compassionate and courageous.
To be creative, compassionate and courageous is not a call to be superhuman. It is a call to be who God created us to be—fully human.
Being creative, compassionate and courageous doesn’t mean we will have it all together. It means we will acknowledge and embrace our limitations and celebrate the gift God gives us because of our limitations. In addition to the Holy Spirit, this gift is other people.
Together—not independently of each other or God—we will be creative, compassionate and courageous.
Throw us a curveball, and we will adjust and respond. God made humans that way.
While some were planning for a pandemic years ago, the vast majority of us did not have a pandemic on our long-range plan. For us, the coronavirus is a curveball. And we’re responding.
In our response now and in the future, we need to do things differently. But what, and how?
We know we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but for some, the bathwater is so dirty, they can’t tell the difference between the water and the baby. Look for the baby, and save it. Throw the rest out.
To be creative, we don’t need someone telling us what to do. We need to open our eyes to the situation we’re in and give ourselves permission to respond as the situation requires.
We have been given five talents, and we have permission to make it 10 (Matthew 25:14-30). The giver doesn’t tell us how to do it.
We have given money to help people obtain basic necessities during the pandemic, while also reviling one another for reopening or not reopening churches or wearing or not wearing masks.
We can’t have it both ways. We can’t show compassion in one form while withholding it in another. We can’t do a good deed for a stranger while condemning our brother or sister in Christ.
Compassion—which originally meant “suffering with”—is an action, not just a feeling. To be compassionate means to live out the fact that each and every person is equally worthy of God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. No one person or group of people is more worthy of all of that than any other person or group.
To condemn another person is to try to avoid suffering by standing apart. It is to ignore the fact that none of us will avoid suffering and that we all need compassion.
We must reject two lies: Courageous people aren’t afraid, and failure is not an option.
Fear is an emotion. Courage is action in spite of the emotion.
Failure is an option. Failure may carry dire consequences, but until we can control everything, failure is an option.
The reality is, we may do everything right and still the doors may close forever; we still may lose our job, our car and our house; we and our kids still may get sick.
To be courageous is to be willing to fail. It is to understand the odds and still to take a risk, even if taking it alone.
Who we will be
These three—creativity, compassion and courage—must go together. Courage without compassion will abuse people. Compassion without courage stands still. Separately or together, these two without creativity don’t meet the need at hand.
The present is challenging enough. The future? We have no guarantees about the future, but we do know three things:
1. We are created in God’s image, and God is supremely creative.
2. We are commanded to love God and one another, and everything else hangs on that.
3. We are not to be controlled by fear. The Bible tells us so again and again and again.
We do not know what lies ahead, but we do know we will not be the same. Instead, we will be creative, compassionate and courageous, because God created us to be.
Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP. The views expressed are those solely of the author.