The other day a friend described her mental/emotional state in recent months as “walking in a fog.” Life events—not all attributed to the Covid 19 pandemic, but certainly exacerbated by its insidious and pervasive descent—contributed to this hard-to-describe malaise.
While pondering this conversation, I remembered driving in fog while living in British Columbia, Canada many years ago. My husband was regularly flying from our home to Toronto and would frequently catch “red eye” flights (flights departing at night and arriving the next morning) to make the most of business in the east and family time in the west.
It was about a one-hour drive from our home in Abbotsford to the Vancouver International Airport and on this particular morning one of our younger sons accompanied me on the Highway 1 route. This well-traveled road actually runs through what is valley bottom, aka delta land, and when weather conditions are “just right,” heavy fog blankets the area for several miles.
When we left home the sun was shining, but about halfway to our destination, fog descended like a heavy, impenetrable blanket. My vision was restricted to only a few feet ahead and because I needed to concentrate on brake lights of cars or trucks suddenly appearing ahead of us, I told our son to open the passenger window and keep his eyes peeled for the white line of the right side of the road. If I veered too far to the right or left, he was to warn me. Definitely not the recommended method of travel but we made it to the airport unscathed. Both he and I had been on High Alert, practicing mindfulness to the nth degree.
Fog. A feeling of lostness. Lack of concentration. Flat motions. Masked joy. Something “not quite right,” but we can’t pinpoint what’s wrong. Experts are calling this “pandemic fog,” often with accompanying stress, increasing depression, and anxiety.
So how do we successfully walk through this fog? One doctor suggests practicing mindfulness, defined as a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens…tuning our thoughts into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. (And I would add, rather than concentrating on pandemic media reports!)
This is good advice but what does it have to do with my driving to the airport? Is was imperative that I drive with my mind fully engaged on the “present moment,” but attention to that white line was a life-preserving technique, not merely a safe driving recommendation.
We dare not ignore the fog—it’s a reality—but neither can we wander in it without guidance. What white line are you concentrating on these days? What unswerving, unchangeable truth is your focus? I’ve discovered that when my confidence is placed on fluctuating opinions (no matter the source), or on vague, candy-coated maxims, the fog only thickens.
A wise poet/soldier/king/shepherd once wrote that “(God’s word) is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). Not exactly a white line, but close enough. However, it’s not enough to merely acknowledge, swiftly read God’s word, I need to take it in, gnaw on it, digest it, perhaps even argue with God about it! (One paraphrase describes God’s “Come, let us reason together” of Isaiah 1:18 as “Let’s argue this out” while another says, “Let’s consider the options.”)
Believing that “every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good”* is risky but it’s the only way to walk in the fog.
*Romans 8:28 The Message