When I was growing up, my extended family used this phrase like a greeting at family reunions and holiday gatherings. While it felt a little invasive growing up, as an adult, it has left me with a dissatisfaction for common greetings brushed off with pat answers.
“How are you?” (Fine.)
My friend, Em, told me “fine” is the Christian F-word; I think she’s onto something. It can function like a shield, and when I say ‘fine’ I mean, ‘Don’t ask me anything else, I’m good.’
What I am finally admitting is although no one in my family was sick during quarantine, and we had many precious moments I won’t forget in this lifetime, things aren’t fine. The world isn’t fine. My soul is tired from wrestling down anxious thoughts over the last few months.
I have been studying the questions Jesus asked in the gospels and while in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks Peter, James and John to stay up all night and watch while He prays. When they fall asleep, Jesus asks in Mark 14:37 “Simon, are you asleep? Were you not able to keep watch for one hour?”
The waiting and the fatigue became too much for Peter, and he feel asleep. Although he fell physically asleep, I think the greater danger for us is when we fall spiritually asleep. When our foot falls asleep, it gets numb. That’s what falling spiritually asleep feels like, like a numbness, like what you once cared about, you don’t so much anymore.
We can get tired of waiting, tired of working, tired of wanting something to be one way. It’s all too much… it’s exhausting. And we just fall asleep. I was in a heavy season of travel last year and was sitting in the Minneapolis airport. They announced my flight was delayed, and all I had wanted was to get on the plane and fall asleep. With the delay, came more waiting, and drained, I wanted relief. I finally wandered down the hall until I found a “companion” restroom, and locked myself inside. I curled up on the floor and promptly fell asleep. What kind of fatigue allows you to override your hygienic sensibilities like that? The overwhelming kind.
Although Peter should have stayed awake as Jesus asked, I understand how sleep, or numbness, can bring escape. We all have stories that have become too much and we are just sleepwalking through. The only way to stay awake and alert, and fight numbness in the gardens of our life is by surrendering and trust.
When we let go of control, situations get lighter, since trying to be in control is exhausting. When we confess our sin, feeling and life return to our limbs, since holding onto sin is exhausting. When we are present in the day, not thinking about the past or worrying about tomorrow, we stay alert, and are awake, watching for what God has next for us.
When we are asleep/numb, we let things slide. We don’t pay attention to our children, and we stop parenting them and just manage them. We don’t pay attention to our marriage, and we co-exist or worse. We don’t pay attention to our calling, and we start building our own kingdoms or our dollars, and we find ourselves with never enough. We don’t pay attention to our tongue, or our thought life, and we speak what we shouldn’t, or fantasize about what isn’t ours.
The result of this slumber is temptation. Jesus goes on in Mark 14:38 to say to Peter, “Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He wants us to stay awake for our sakes, so we don’t fall into temptation.
James tells us: temptation leads to sin, and sin to death. Have you ever asked yourself, How did I get here? How did it get this bad? When did this even start? The answer is: Something became too much, and we didn’t surrender. Then eventually exhausted, we got numb, and fell asleep.
In some ways, quarantine has given us a long hibernation, and if we use it wisely, we can leave this season refreshed, realigned, and mindful of who God is and what He can do through us. It takes effort to remember who He made us to be. I am trusting as I re-enter my community, I will be alert, and I will be ready to take thoughts captive and move towards Kingdom advancing activity.
I feel Him nudging me, asking “Are you asleep? How’s it going with your soul?” With all that is in me, I answer, “I am awake, alert. I confess, and surrender. I am ready for and dependent on You for what I need. Lead on…”