Persevering to ‘Live Not By Lies’ in a Cancel Culture + some thoughts on Covid
December 14, 2020
I’ve recently finished Rod Dreher’s latest book, Live Not By Lies, a read I found deeply sobering and prescient. He had already written the bulk of it prior to covid, and so I read many of the recollections of emigres from the Soviet Bloc with a sickening sense of deja vu.
The stories of torture, of kidnapping and starvation, and of loss of jobs and status and livelihoods were chilling. But the stories of resistance were deeply hopeful and desperately consoling to a mom who is trying to figure out how the hell to keep her kids safe and more than that, how to keep them whole in the midst of a world gone mad.
I worry about their physical health, certainly. And their mental health? More than ever this year. But most of all I worry about their spiritual health, and how to inoculate them against the falling darkness all around us.
This book is equipping me with some of the answers. One particularly story from the book stands out to me – a family of Czech Catholics who almost singlehandedly led the resistance efforts in Prague during the reign of Communism. The catch was, they were in the extreme minority both as believers and as Catholics. Most of their neighbors were agnostic, if not completely atheist. They did not live in the kind of Benedict Option bubble one might imagine raising kids in the midst of an evil regime might require. (But then, did you actually read the Benedict Option? Or just someone else’s hot takes on it? It’s worth reading for yourself – you’ll see what I mean)
This family even had the opportunity to emigrate to the US of all places during a period where the patriarch of the family had been imprisoned for political activism. Nevertheless, they persisted. They remained in their homeland, in their hometown, and they demonstrated, for me, the very epitome of what is meant by blooming where you are planted. Today the father is no longer living, but the mother is the proud matriarch of a sprawling Catholic family, of which every single member for two generations is a practicing Catholic.
This story gives me so much hope that in a world gone sideways and in a culture that is increasingly tuning out reason and reality, my kids can still thrive.
This year has taught us all a lot about who we really are, and about what we really value. If you’d asked me in December 2019 whether I could ever envision weeping with joy for getting to receive Holy Communion, however much I’d have liked that to be a quality of piety I possessed, I would have politely demurred.
Then lockdown happened, and the joy of being able to receive Jesus again after such a prolonged fast at last produced the desired effect on my soul and the appropriate level of gratitude in my heart.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I haven’t managed to maintain anything near that level of gratitude and excitement for once again being able to participate in the sacramental life of the Church, but it certainly afforded me a glimpse into the reality that difficult circumstances produce purified Christians.
As much as I hope we never experience anything like the global lockdowns again, I am not naive enough to imagine that 2020 has been simply a bump of suffering on the road to a return to normalcy.
Whatever the hell else “new normal” means, it certainly doesn’t mean we’ll be going back to life “BC” anytime soon. Now that the powers that be have had a taste of the power that fear can afford them, I can’t see anyone in a position of power – unless they posses almost superhuman virtue – willingly giving back what they’ve taken by force.
Watching small businesses and restaurants sputter and die while Home Depot and Target grow fat has had almost an unreal quality about it. On Saturday I naively popped into Target for “a couple things” and was jolted to see crowds well into the hundreds. It is, after all, just 2 weeks before Christmas.
And yet, meanwhile, the salon across the parking lot closed its doors forever last month, strangled by the regulations that destroyed its profitability.
Very little of the behavior that we have engaged in collectively over the last 9 months makes sense. It might evoke feelings of comfort and control for the simple fact that at times doing “something” (wearing a fashion mask from Old Navy, for example) feels better than doing nothing, but it is certainly not doing much in the way of reducing the spread of a virus whose microscopic proteins are capable of penetration at a level so much laughably smaller than the holes in the fiber which comprises it that it’s best not to think too long or hard about it.
And hey, you’re welcome to disagree with me about masks! But maybe pretend it’s still 2019 and do so in a way that doesn’t call into question my humanity and my inherent worth as a person? For what it’s worth, here in Colorado masks are mandatory pretty much everywhere and guess what? Covid rates are climbing every day. Because it’s a coronavirus! And it’s cold and flu season! We’re all going to either get it, have our immune systems successfully fight it off, or sign up for an experimental vaccine that I pray to God will not be compulsory and cross our fingers the side effects aren’t disproportionally grave.
An aside, before you bust out the pitchforks: my father in law is seriously ill with Covid right now, and we’d welcome you to join in praying and hoping for a complete recovery. He had several pre existing conditions working against him when he contracted it, so we’re not surprised but are of course concerned. Because it’s possible to be both appropriately worried by a serious illness and also not to take leave of your rational mind.
Something else 2020 has impressed upon me? The vital importance of knowing what you believe, and finding resources to remind you of it, and to strengthen you in your conviction.
For us, that has looked like leaning into our small groups of community harder than ever before. It has looked like Zoom calls and Voxer messages, BBQs and coffee rosaries, happy hours and holy hours, evenings gathered to pray and delve deep into the Word and strengthen one another in the only real solution to this hideous mess we all find ourselves in at present: Jesus.
My prayer life is inconsistency personified. But there are a few daily patterns I’ve been able to persist in this year.
Praise. I tell Alexa to play Hillsong or Bethel or Josh Baldwin and I unabashedly throw my hands up and I praise Him, at the kitchen sink or over homework supervision or alone in the car. My kids have gotten more used to hearing me pray spontaneously out loud, and my hope is that I continue to grow in boldness and readiness to speak His Name and seek His Face during moments of tension and sorrow and joy.
The over-the-sink Bible. Despite looking a wreck for all the splashes and splatters, this habit has probably been one of the most transformative of my adult life. I’m usually in the Psalms, and I’m constantly reading things I’m pretty sure I’ve never read before. The other morning as I plunged into the breakfast dishes, filled with concern over our nation’s future, I looked up to find it open to Psalm 74, which I’m sure I’ve never read and whose subtitle (at least in this particular version of the Bible) reads: “Prayer in time of national calamity”. Okay Lord, loud and clear.
Rest. I need so much more rest than I’d ever have imagined. Call it the weight of stress or grief or just plain having 6 kids under 10, but I’ve never needed more downtime in my life. Granted, it comes in 10 minute increments in between endless tasks on the to do list, but this is the year I’ve finally figured out how to say “no” and also how to say “enough.” Hence the silence here on the blog and on social media. I’m trying to write more, but I have no intention of ever returning to IG or Twitter or personal FB – if you follow the blog’s FB you’ve probably notice by now it’s a link drop and not a place I engage in the comments e.v.e.r., lol. Sanity be mine.
Gratitude. So cliche, but truly, I’ve never been so grateful to be a stay at home mom with a rock solid community of other women who are trying to raise holy families and keep the home fires burning. Most of us also work part time in various income generating capacities, because hello two earner economy, but the ability to already be sort of an “expert” on how to make a home work – and work hard – has been a great boon to life lately. I can’t remember how many times I’ve rearranged every single room in our house this year, but I know that I have, and I’ve grown in appreciation and gratefulness for the shelter and flexibility our imperfect 70s fixer upper (and not the cute JoJo kind) has provided.
Gonna wrap things up there but wanted to at least tap the mic and let you all know I’m still alive and the brain is still percolating, albeit at a slower and frequently-interrupted pace.
I plan to write much more about LNBL when I can find the time, so… come for the social commentary on marxism but stay for the hot takes on potty training, I guess?
Hope the last weeks of Advent afford you some moments of respite from the weary world out there. I know that I, for one, have never felt the need for our Savior more acutely than I do this year.