Spin, Sink, or Row Ahead

Written by Rhonda Alstott

The alarm hit my house hard this morning. The first day of school for the 2020-2021 school season has begun and we’ve already messed up virtual period zero Latin before in person school for the first day. My huge anxiety has quickly turned to huge frustration that the Alstott household has been unsuccessful at getting this new normal down. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that it does not matter how badly I want something to succeed, if the team isn’t rowing in the same direction, the boat ends up spinning.  I can apply this to so many different situations in my life right now.  I’ve actually spent the last few months of my life letting go of some situations that I love because all the oars weren’t rowing in the same direction, the boat started spinning, even taking on water, and I felt my boat sinking.


Sinking… that’s a word that describes so many of my emotions right now. I think my lack of control over so many issues all at once gets the best of me at times.   When I look at the root of my control issues (or lack of control in my case), fear is the underlying issue that gets the best of me. Let’s face it, we’ve never been in a pandemic before. I’m 54 and I’ve never experienced such social unrest, our country so divided, high unemployment rate, blatant disregard for human life and a constant barrage of misinformation along with incivility amidst pain, loss and suffering…I could continue, but you get the point. In the midst of this sinking chaos, I’m supposed to make a decision for my child to either attend school virtually, home-school or attend in person. I know this has been on the mind of several of my friends with school age children as they’ve shared the same kind of emotions…And on top of that it could change at any moment…and there goes the lack of control, triggering my fear.  The decisions so many of us have been making in regards to school, work, worship and such are constantly being attacked by others with differing opinions, just adding to the sinking feeling.   Oh and information we’ve used to make our best decisions change daily… You get the picture.


Lucky for me, scripture is full of confrontations with fear and out of control situations. In Mark Chapter 4, Jesus and His disciples set sail on the Sea of Galilee. This would have been roughly two years into his ministry after the disciples had witnessed His great power and teaching. They had been witness to Jesus feeding multitudes with a few loaves and fishes, His healing of many sick and even raising the dead, but when a storm came upon them while Jesus was asleep in the stern, they become so afraid and wake Him up (v38) asking Him if He even cared that they were perishing.  After Jesus quiets the storm, He asks the question of them, “Why are you so afraid?  How is it that you have no faith?”   Those are two questions I think we all have to continually ask ourselves during this Covid season of life that we are in.  Sometimes the storm is overwhelming us and I feel like Jesus is asleep at the stern of the boat, while I am either spinning in circles or worse, sinking.


Why am I so afraid?


How is it that I have no faith?

When my older 3 children were small and afraid of the dark, I posted Psalm 56:3 above the light switches of their rooms, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you”.   Why on the light switches? They were terrified of the dark when I turned the light off…Why the dark? We cannot see in the dark and all of those unknown monsters threaten to grab us by the ankle and pull us into the unknown.  It’s no different for me today as I send my precious Mary into the dark of the unknown.  Will she get Covid? Will she get really sick if she does? Will she give it to me, to the others that live here in this safe space we designate as home? I know statistically the chances for her well being maintained are 99%. I also know that if she’s in the 1%, it can be devastating. That 1% is the monster in the dark that I’m afraid of.  Psalm 56:3 will be ever on my lips this day.  I might add that my oldest child is a teacher and has been in her classroom with students for a week now…she’s got a heart condition, and asthma and there’s already positive students in the building…see there’s a monster in the dark there… there’s a monster in the dark for everyone I love.  Why do I keep forgetting that “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?”(Psalm 27:1). Jesus is my light and the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it” (John 1:5). It doesn’t matter what shade is thrown my way or whether I, or someone else is doing the throwing, Jesus has enough Light to overcome all of it.


When I am afraid, I will trust in you…

Tony has traveled a lot in the past ten years of his ministry. When he’s gone overnight I let Mary sleep with me, stuffed animals and all. She’s always been anxious when her dad travels, but especially when he flies. You see we have lost a lot of family in the past few years. She has seen her cousins her age lose their 42 year old dad unexpectedly. She has lost her grandfather in a sudden car wreck. The list of family losses has jolted her into a reality that no one is immune to loss. The last time Tony flew, she told me she was so afraid something would happen to him. I usually shrug it off and tell her he will be okay, but I didn’t this time.  I told her the truth. I told her the truth that chances are nothing will happen to her dad, but if it did, it would be okay, we would be okay. I told her it would be hard, but that we have Jesus and his Spirit and all would be well because we have faith. 


Death….Isn’t that the answer to what most of us are afraid of? Isn’t the death of what we love and hold dear including our homes, businesses  and our way of life, including worship, on the table during this pandemic? Isn’t death and losing someone we love the biggest monster in the dark? As so many of us are grappling with this fear as we send our kids to school (or not), my prayer is that we remember that God promises us that no monster in the dark will overtake us that we cannot handle with Him (1 Corinthians 10:13).  


We’re all making decisions for what is best for each of us, our families, our workplaces and our churches in the midst of this pandemic.  My prayer is that we offer love, grace and support for these decisions with one another, even if we have different opinions, after all they are just that, differing opinions. The love and care we’ve made these decisions with can be the direction we all are rowing in and that can keep all of us from spinning circles in our boats, or worse, sinking in them.