Updated: Mar 22, 2021
I) The Problem In the age of pandemic, it is all too easy to allow the virus to infect our thinking. Even before the pandemic, our world seemed to be stuck in a cycle of negative, contentious thought. We have been lured into the cognitive distortion of “catastrophizing” as a strategy to win our allegiance. I find the most insidious thing is the cost of abandoning (even if for a moment) our better angels, our higher thoughts, and aspirations. I fear that recent history has lowered our expectations for what the world could be.
II) Wisdom of the Ancients Marcus Aurelius, a second century philosopher who became Rome’s Emperor, said “I have it in my soul to keep out any evil, desire or any kind of disturbance - instead, seeing the true nature of things, I will give them only their due.” Human beings have a habit of dwelling on things. The danger in catastrophizing is all that mental preparation for a dire future is making a mess of our present. Trouble should get its due in our mental space, but we should quickly move on to our higher aspirations.
III) Anticipation and Advent Christian Faith advocates for extended times of anticipation. This week is the beginning of the season of Advent which leads into Christmas. It is commonly thought of as a time of preparation but more than that, it is intended to cultivate expectation of a most profound grace. In the gospel of Mark, the Prophet Isaiah is quoted, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.” (Mark 1:3). Conventional wisdom says, “Expect the best, plan for the worst.” Sacred wisdom says, Be aware of trouble, but expect the best and act in faith of its inevitability.
In God’s paradigm of human behavior, vision is a task for all, not the talent of a few. We should pay attention to the rambling of our thoughts and reign them in. We can and we should think higher thoughts. We should dream better dreams. Mark 1:1-8 2 Peter 3:8-15a Isaiah 40:1-11 Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13