Once upon a time, I was a fireman. It was a curious part of life at my college that each student had to “volunteer” to work in some capacity a certain number of hours each week. One of the possible jobs, next to vacuuming and so on, was a position on the local fire department. Being a fireman for the city of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee meant one night of training each week and a certain number of days on call. There were occasional brushfires and we once had a house fire, but the usual event was a false alarm at a building on campus. So at around 3:00 a.m. we would get a signal on our beepers and sprint through the woods from our dorm to the firehouse. Good times.
No one else followed us though. We ran alone. It was the strangest thing that only those who were members of the fire department made an effort to get on the truck to respond to the alarm.
Strange in that we have been inclined to think that every crisis is our responsibility even if we are not assigned that responsibility and are not trained to deal with it in any way.
A few months ago the entire country was all concerned about the Ebola virus. Now it’s ISIS. Tomorrow it will be tornadoes in the mid-west or fracking in the farmlands. In 99% of the “news” events that enters into our consciousness, we have no responsibility.
But we are just bombarded with it. I do not partake of the morning news, the midday news or the evening news. Or the one just before bed. But still the alarms blare in my ears, whether it’s smart phone alerts or word of mouth or the headline of the local paper I happen to glance at on my way into the grocery store. BE ALARMED! BE CONCERNED, AT LEAST! From a minor car crash to a house fire to election fraud to a new cancer scare, we are being hounded from our sanity by those who think that we need to consume their hysteria. Keep in mind friends that they are merely in the business of selling toothpaste, not in the sanity business, not in the truth business, not in the “keep it in perspective” business.
Is it something I can vote for or against at an upcoming election? Yes? Then as a citizen I might have a responsibility there. Have I been named Ebola Czar by the President? If so, I should take this matter very seriously. Am I an organic farmer whose livelihood may be endangered by fracking? Yes? Then I should pay attention and get involved.
The Folly of Awareness
But we need to be aware, don’t we? Being aware of a situation is in no way helping. We think we’ve helped but if we involve ourselves in a situation for which we are not trained, how helpful can we be? And if it has no impact on your life or the life of a loved one, how much can you ingest before you grow weary or just plain depressed? You need to be aware when a tornado is coming at your town. You do not need to be aware when a tornado is coming towards a town in Myanmar.
The caveat to this is the blessing of prayer. When we place concerns that are far beyond our control into the arms of our all-powerful Father we handle the situation rightly. And prayer can stretch to Myanmar or to the Middle East, and to that minor situation two towns over. Prayer is something we have the training for, and in some ways responsibility, especially if a situation is weighing on our hearts. In the hands of the Father is where we put it and where we leave it.
Tuning out that which is well beyond our control and tuning in that which we have actual responsibility for will balance us, free us from unnecessary concerns, and bless those with whom we have relationships. In most cases, we just need to tune this stuff out so that we can tune other stuff in. The stuff we do have a responsibility for.
Presumably you are someone‘s son or daughter or friend or parent. You have actually been given responsibilities in these areas. There are real people with real problems relying on you partly, or in whole, and, in many or most cases, you have been uniquely trained to deal with crises in these areas. In fact, you might be the only one on planet Earth that can effectively respond to an alarm in the life of your child or parent or friend. Just you. And it won’t help if others try and help will it? It’s your thing, your duty.
Rather than running alongside firemen in the middle of the night, you should be getting rest for your job, the one you’ve been given, the one you’ve been trained for. Or, when you hear the alarm, pray for the safety of those firemen, and turn around and go back to sleep.
Have you struggled with this kind of distraction? Have you found ways to keep your focus on what you are most responsible for? Comment below.