By Michaelyn Hein –
A strange phenomenon has plagued families in recent decades. It is the problem of children attaching more to their peers than to their parents. This “peer orientation,” as Dr. Gordon Neufeld, PhD, comments, has become so common in our society, “that we don’t realize its insidiousness.”
The trouble is that children have become the dominant influence on one another’s development. Certainly, we don’t need to hold a degree to see the danger in this. A simple reading of Lord of the Flies demonstrates the chaos and cruelty that ensue without the wisdom of holy parental guidance.
Tragically, this problem has also gripped our spiritual families. The observation hit me yesterday as I passed a sign hanging at a busy intersection in my town. “Don’t worry,” the handmade sign comforted passersby, “we’ve got this. #Americastrong.” It was a seemingly innocuous nod to our interdependence and strength in the midst of this pandemic.
Our society has shared such thoughts before. We scribble these kinds of sentiments on cards to friends facing surgery or cancer. We hear them in pep talks before a big game or event. We whisper these words to ourselves before we enter an important meeting.
After the Boston Marathon bombing, #Bostonstrong took the country by storm, and we all felt united and bolstered against great evil. I’ve never taken issue with such words before. On the contrary, I’ve always felt the morale boost a simple, “We’ve got this” can evoke.
But yesterday, the words, hand-painted on a giant white sheet and hanging innocently from a fence didn’t sit right with me. I contemplated them, mulling over the problem.
And then it hit me. “We” don’t have this. “We” have never had this – or anything, for that matter. If nothing else, this pandemic has exposed to us how little we actually do have. If you doubt that, simply look to our leaders, to our most intelligent doctors, none of whom can agree on the best way to control this outbreak, and none of whom can figure out how to rid us of it.
No, we don’t “have” this, but admitting that doesn’t need to bring us to despair. Because we should also acknowledge that there is One who does, and that is God.
For too long, we wayward children have opted to depend not on our Father but on each other for saving. But in recent weeks, looking to our peers and not to our heavenly Parent has only left us scratching our heads and fearing the worst.
We look to each other and we prepare to stay holed up in our homes for months. We look to each other and we argue over which doctor’s recommendations are the ones to follow. We look to each other and debate about which leader’s time frame to reopen the economy is the best plan. We look to each other, and we only receive chaos and uncertainty as a result.
We as a society seem to have forgotten that we have a Father who loves us. That we have a Father who holds the world, and this virus, in His hands. That He alone, not our brightest leaders and most accomplished doctors, has the power to fix this.
Just as children were never meant to orient themselves according to their peers, so human beings were never meant to deny our heavenly Parent and orient ourselves according to each other.
The trouble with turning to each other in times of trial is that we are not God. However, we forgot that. With the advent of so much technology and so many medical advancements, we decided we no longer needed God, since we could now depend solely on ourselves.
But our day and time has revealed just how weak we really are, despite all our accolades and degrees, our knowledge and progress.
Like the prodigal son, we find ourselves in the filth of the world that we have fashioned, empty-handed and poor, without a cure for a disease we find ourselves fighting.
Yes, COVID19 has infected the world. But a worse virus is being revealed to us. It is the virus of self-dependence, of peer-orientation; the virus of denying our loving Father for far too long.
We’ve spread this worse disease for decades, to our children and throughout society, so much so that in the face of a worrisome pandemic, our first instinct isn’t to increase our Masses and visit church more often, the only place where we can find our Savior in the flesh, but to shutter up our churches and deem them “non-essential.”
But what would happen if we turned back to God, our Father, and to Mary, our Mother, during this great time of fear? If through prayers and rosaries, we entrusted our lives not to the government or to doctors, but to our Father in heaven and our Blessed Mother?
What if instead of comforting the world with, “We’ve got this,” we reminded each other not to fear, for “God’s got this.” What if we shared on social media not sentiments akin to #Americastrong, but the more unifying #Godstrong?
It’s time we prodigal children return to our Father, repent of our choice to depend on ourselves rather than Him. It is time to ask His forgiveness and beg for His Mercy. Like any good parent, He wants – and waits for our return – to give it.
Michaelyn Hein is a Catholic writer, wife and mother, who resides in Hipwell, N.J. Her work has been featured on numerous Catholic blogs and in Crisis Magazine. She is a regular contributor to Soul Magazine.