Talking your parents down from the edge. This phrase made me laugh because it so often describes what goes on in our house. The underlying premise is that your parents are needlessly fearful. They have ceased to engage culture in a meaningful way. They are afraid of change, and have withdrawn into the safety of their outdated ideas. The kids have to take charge of reality and talk their parents down from the ledge.
Most often this presents itself in the context of movie choice. One daughter still at home chooses a Netflix movie. The choice is meant to jolt us out of our stodgy ways of thinking. She has described our regular movie fare as variously “dumb” and “boring”. The movies she chooses challenge us, but they do not entertain us. They leave us feeling uneasy and a bit frightened for the future. It’s not the plots so much as what is assumed in the plots. The worldview and what is paraded as normal is a very far cry from what we are comfortable with. From our standpoint, her movies often lack a distinct plot. The messaging seems to be random in a way that pokes you in the eyeballs. When you search for meaning, you find none. There is no sense of redemption, only apetites, consumption and people behaving badly.
I confess I have had my own false idols when I was younger, hence I think of myself as someone with their eyes open. For example: I used to be a big James Taylor fan. I awaited his every album release. I made it a point to learn all the particular licks from his guitar style. My status as a James Taylor fan greatly diminished when I heard a spoken autobiography where he told the story of his early life and marriage. He talked a lot about drug abuse and infidelity. There was a lot of infidelity. If I met him in person and didn’t know he was famous, I would be pretty wary of taking up his example. What he thought about life was not attractive and I could not admire his worldview at all. It was empty and built on pretty shaky ground.
Psalms 29:18 tells us that “without a vision the people perish” and that is what I think is going on right now. There is an inability to clearly see where we are at. It’s not the people who are uneasy we should be worried about, it is the people who do not seem to be worried at all. Culture has shifted drastically and irretrievably, in my opinion. The wise would do well to proceed with caution because the times we live in are outright dangerous.
It’s not the pandemic. The pandemic is an ongoing and underlying issue. Am I alone in feeling like 2020 was the year a Pandora’s grab-bag of evil tricks was set loose on the world? The year began in unrest and the unrest has been a constant background noise to all else that is going on. It’s not politics as usual. The kind of politics we are seeing these days are of the sort that imagines two parties cannot talk. Talk is dangerous, it is even labelled as “violent”. Hence there is a fullscale assault taking place on free speech that assumes automatic virtue for one side by way of group identity. It’s an intolerant and unbalanced concept that only the most naive could buy into. It also evades the reality of what has unfolded in similar junctures throughout world history.
Last year, Isaiah 41:10 showed up on Bible app search engines as the most sought after verse of the year. People maybe punched in keywords like hope, and counsel for the future. The verse promises: “do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The message “do not fear” shows up time and again in the Bible, and I believe its advice should be taken to heart.
Fear however, is not always a bad thing. There is a healthy fear which keeps its eyes wide open. Canadian author Michael D. O’Brien tells a story in his book “A Landscape with Dragons” where his young son was afraid of monsters in his room. He considered telling his son that monsters do not exist. He asked his son to draw what scared him, and his son illustrated a very evil-looking dragon. The dragon is a universal archetype but that does not mean that its threat is imaginary. Rather, the dragon archetype adds flesh to what we sense but cannot make out clearly; that evil is real. He concludes “It is good that our children fear dragons, for in their fearing, they can learn to overcome fear with courage”. Dragons can be defeated.
Revelation 12: 7-11 tells this story: Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power cand the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”
I am wary looking out into the future, that I see things clearly. It is not the same thing as being fearful. I hope that seeing clearly makes me prudent and careful. I hope it reminds me to look for good and worthy things to fill my thoughts, things that will help and strengthen me – and equip me with what my adult children do not have at this point… context. I was reminded of this basic truth changing my sticker plates for the year. I realized yet again... all my wrenches are imperial and the nuts are metric. Times have changed but what I really need are up-to-date tools to deal with the present reality.
This is not to denigrate the old tools. There are some standbys that should not be forgotten. Leaning on ancient scripture which talks about a faithful and unchanging God is one of those. Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?