by Janet Bryant Brown
The culture in our neck of the woods, a southern heavily logged area of the country thrives on drinking sweet tea, socializing around a homemade meal at home or at the country store. We hang out at our local places of business for social interaction, thrive on sharing stories and lingering together anywhere we can congregate, churches, stores, houses, cow fields, but Covid wiped all that away in a moment’s time. We masked up, stopped being quite so neighborly, completing our business quickly and heading home to isolate ourselves.
FEAR OF GETTING TOO CLOSE
When we started meeting again in church obeying the required 6 feet distancing mandate, talking to people became an anxious experience instead of a calming, fun social aspect. Wanting to stand closer together yet fearing it at the same time wore on me. Yes, the pandemic was real but I was so mad about it wanting the freedom I had enjoyed pre covid. I had to figure out a way to deal with my anger and anxiety. I was upset with myself for how I was feeling, mad at others for their fear but realizing I was just as afraid. I felt so boxed in and squished, feeling bound by something that was out of my control. I just wanted to rebel, take off my mask and talk to everyone I came in contact with. But, fear. Fear stopped me in my tracks. Fear of getting covid, fear of giving it. I was tired of living in fear but it seemed inevitable with this panic inducing pandemic.
FREEDOM DESPITE RESTRICTIONS
I have to admit I snapped, taking my mask off in Walmart without anyone around me and danced a little jig for a minute enjoying a sense of “freedom.” I put the mask back on a second later and enjoyed that feeling for a little while longer until the guilt set in. Later I realized that wasn’t true freedom, rebelling by throwing off the restrictions. Freedom wasn’t in disobeying the rules, freedom was much deeper than tossing off the restraints placed on me.
GOD’S HELP WITH PERSPECTIVE
I recognized I needed to come to terms with wearing a mask and social distancing. The restrictions were in place indefinitely so I had to figure something out to maintain my peace and sanity. Asking for God’s help and changing my perspective is what helped me. This scripture motivated me, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) I learned I could deal with the anger and fear by realizing I had control of my inner world. I had control of my attitude, my actions, my thoughts. I could bring joy with me wherever I went instead of ill temper and apprehension.
When I went to the store I smiled with my eyes more, didn’t recoil from the restrictions and enjoyed myself as I pushed my grocery cart down the aisles. When going to church I relaxed instead of internally complaining about the social distancing. I realized I could view my situation with hope and joy instead of fear and anger. Worry and anxiety had taken such a toll on my wellbeing I needed a better way to live to maintain my mental health.
Key to getting me through this crazy time was leaning on the God who loves me to help me process my pent up emotions in reaction to limiting restrictions. I found I could control my actions and reactions because my God who lives in me has given me the ability to live and choose a liberating freedom in times of crisis. When I focus on what is wrong, concerning, fearful, anxiety provoking I become more upset. When I focus on the God who lives inside of me, who gives me the choice to walk in freedom and the power to control my outlook I relax, become more peaceful and joyful. Outside circumstances can be confining and debilitating but our internal position can be restorative and liberating.
Freedom Is A Choice
I was able to throw off the straitjacket squeezing my heart and accept the life God was offering to me instead. I was able to breathe in the life of God - joy and peace, while exhaling the death - fear and anxiety that was restricting me, knocking the breath out of me. I am enjoying a type of freedom that doesn’t break laws or waits for a physical emancipation but a freedom I own and possess as I choose to walk in it.
I haven’t enjoyed this covid life but I have learned through it to lean more on the God who cares for me, who wants me to enjoy a life of freedom and joy no matter my circumstances. I doubt I’ll be throwing off my mask in the middle of Walmart again but I am learning to dance a jig regardless of the mask, celebrating the freedom I know I have inside of me.
Thanks so much Janet
for your guest contribution today!
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