Archives for the month of: March, 2020

I realized that my last two blog posts are deeply related. This time of self-confinement is not only tapping into my fear of missing out on months of living life, but also my fear of not being missed by others. Out of sight, out of mind. Due to the COVID-19-related guidance to shelter in place, I won’t be physically around my friends and social circles in person as a prompt for my community to remember I exist.

But I also need to flip around the fear so that it’s not so self-oriented. The enemy just wants me to focus narcissistically on myself and drown in self-pity. So I too can do my part to remember my friends and family — to reach out to them proactively to see how they’re doing. Especially those who are isolated, living alone, without much support. Care for others as I want to be cared for.

Along with countless others, I rewatched the movie Contagion and I resonate with the daughter of Matt Damon’s character. Due to a worldwide pandemic, she has been cloistered for months, and she is clearly tired of being cooped up and missing her friends and high school experiences. (At the end of the movie, her father stages a “prom” for her in their house, where he invites her boyfriend to come slow dance with her to U2’s All I Want Is You. No fear, they’ve both received the vaccine for the supervirus.)

I don’t want to minimize anyone’s fears of actually being infected by Covid-19, of spreading it to people who are high-risk, and of all the fatalities that will occur. But as I self-sequester myself in my place along public health guidance (as far as I know, I don’t have the coronavirus!), I’m finding that one of the biggest fears emerging in me personally right now is the terror of missing out on life. I know people talk about “fomo” but this isn’t just simple fear of missing out. There’s something deeper and more visceral for me. We will never be able to recover the many weeks, or even months, that we will be spending indoors and apart from our friends and family. Online interactions, video chats, and phone calls can only replace so much social interaction.

I see this social distancing going on for weeks and weeks on end. We’ll miss celebrating Easter and the Resurrection in person (thank goodness churches are putting their services online). Will we also miss summer with all the wonderful things that come with that season, including holidays by the sea and other vacations? And some experts speculate that coronavirus isn’t seasonal, so how far into this year will this seclusion last? Will it permanently change how we function and socialize? Will we be under house arrest until either a vaccine and/or an antiretroviral is developed? (I’m fine with getting rid of the hand shake, though, because elbow bumps are fine with me and I’m sure many diseases are transmitted via hand shake.)

How do we recover all this time apart? I feel this acutely because I feel myself aging, and the last thing I want to do is lose more time being apart from loved ones. Unlike when I was young, I don’t feel as though I have unlimited time ahead of me. Every day is precious. But it’s hard to appreciate this preciousness when life seems to be on hold. Time slips by and I’ll have even less of it on the other side of this virus, when life starts up again.

Can God work and bear fruit even in this time of sequestration? I struggle to believe this, because I think that I have to be out and about in the world to help Him make things happen. Things don’t “happen” when I’m shut in. Plus the Sabbath is only supposed to be one day a week, not for 2, 3, 4, … straight weeks.

There’s a biblical and agricultural concept of lying fallow. A field needs to lie fallow for a period of time, to restore its nutrients, before being planted again. I remember someone sharing that analogy with me once when I took a “sabbatical” year from being social and trying to focus on my relationship with God. Upon reflection, that seems to be poppycock. I don’t remember that year being foundational to all that happened afterwards. Also, I had control over the extent of the sabbatical — I wasn’t completely antisocial that year; I was more selective and focused. But I now regret pulling back that year — I wonder if there’s just this twisted Christian myth that we need to go on silent retreats to win His favor, and that I was just being legalistic.

I’m frankly not sure what to do with this forced time of quiet and solitude.

 

The title of this post was inspired by the “right to be forgotten” enforced in the European Union, which basically asserts the right to have private information expunged from internet searches. This blog isn’t about internet security or privacy, but I’ve been pondering what it means to be forgotten and remembered. It makes sense that we’d want to suppress sensitive, especially damning, information about ourselves, especially if events happened long ago and we’ve repented / changed (or perhaps we were victims, and not perpetrators) — in some instances, there should be a statute of limitations on what can be recalled.

So let’s talk about remembering and our deep, natural human desire to be remembered. My view of this was shaped by my childhood. My mother neglected me: she took care of all my basic needs, but she never played with me. I was an only child and was very lonely (before I was school-aged, I spent most days alone playing in the living room), so I did a lot of things to get her attention. For example, one day, I decided to open the refrigerator and drop all the raw eggs on the floor.

This is how I learned that if I didn’t actively draw attention to myself, no one would remember me.

So my deep desire to be remembered and my corresponding deep fear of being forgotten have shaped my personality. I’m naturally an extrovert and enjoy being a connector of friends. However, the dark side is the need to be the center of attention. This manifests in needing to be high achieving (hence being obsessed with having a perfect GPA in school), being pointedly, publicly and provocatively opinionated and principled (whether in word, speech or deed), and being in contact with a lot of people at all times (social media is certain a huge enabler of this). A lot of what I do screams, “Look at meeeee!!!”

As a result, my personality has developed these sharp edges, especially from the drive to be noticeably opinionated (no one would ever accuse me of being bland or milquetoast), but to the point where it can repel and intimidate. I know that’s not good at all. Ironically, these sharp edges work directly against my desire is to be remembered and cherished by a beloved few.

Also, working against me in the past was how thinly I spread myself across friends — I’ve been invited to 150-200 weddings over my lifetime, but only asked to be in the bridal party for four. I’m sure the vanity around trying to draw attention to myself isn’t attractive either!

Underlying all of this is the nagging sense that if I don’t remind people I exist, I’ll be forgotten. That’s the terror in my soul. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s probably why I bawled when I watched the Disney movie Coco (amazing how Disney could make animated skeletons cute!).

I’m realizing I’m super tired of reminding people that I’m here. I want God to help me to know that He remembers me and that I don’t have to bug Him. I also want to trust in my good friends that they’ll remember me even if I don’t throw myself in front of them.

The thing is, we all get busy with life, and it’s not possible to remember all our loved ones, all the time. There are also seasons where we intentionally must focus and set aside a lot of our relationships for a time. I personally need to do a better job at remembering my friends and family.

God is beginning to help me to remember all the times He’s worked in someone’s heart to reach out to me out of the blue — after months, and sometimes years, and at the right time. One story that stands out to me in Scripture is Joseph and the cupbearer. The cupbearer only remembered Joseph a couple of years after he met Joseph in prison, when Pharaoh had the dreams from God and asked for an interpreter. I just have to assume that the timing was divine, although that Joseph was probably frustrated that the cupbearer hadn’t remembered him sooner.

These stories from my life and Scripture are good reminders that God doesn’t ever forget us, and we don’t have to “work” to win His affection or attention.