This post was inspired to a reply to another post of masking up. I have since pondered this, what I want to say, how to say it, and how might it be received. Know that this is not a knee-jerk reaction. I am now long to think, slow to speak, or type in this case.
From watching what is going on in our society, I recall that in the beginning, as New Mexico allergens were sprouting and my bride was making masks for her and my eldest for pollen, we saw that as the threat was growing, masks weren’t effective, so don’t. Now they are. I am not going to argue that here and now. That is for another article that I may not ever write or express more than I have here. The reason I point this out is that there are “two sides” to this debate. Most articles, and all that I have read, only have those who wear masks and those who will not because masks are effective. What is being assumed is that if you wear a mask, you care. If you do not, you are the lowest of spectrum of life. The other side says, “I won’t wear a mask because I don’t live in fear.” Do not trip over that. I am not to debate that. I am merely summarizing the debate as I have seen it through the lenses of mainstream and social media. I have seen good brothers and sisters in the faith say that as Christians, we should care and it’s no big deal to wear a mask, but it is actually a mark against our Christian witness not to wear a mask. That attitude wounds me, to be honest.
I work with people. I love working with people. I have listened to both points of view. I understand and will not dismiss either’s concerns. Yes, there is a fear. Yes, there is my witness that I should consider. Yes, I also see that there is more going on than a virus that has not performed as promised back in February. And yes, I know several of you have lost friends and family to this virus. I understand that. I understand that each side is full of passion, and apart from this virus,
I also understand some of the political angles, mainly from my New Mexico filter. Our governor has mandated masks. Violation subjects one to a fine. She is coming on strong to have law enforcement agencies to enforce this. Now some say that she is not allowed to do this action. But she is. There have been citations to previous actions of the NM Legislature back when another was governor that could be applied. But then I believe that this last emergency session of the Round House (our state legislation), gave the governor fiat power to see us through this pandemic. She can pass civil punishment for not complying with the masks. Whether or not she can get people like Sheriff Kim Stewart of my own Dona Ana County, as well as others across the state, to enforce it, that is for them to decide between themselves. I understand that an approach of one size fits all solution is not a solution. New Mexico is not New York, praise God. You see the entirety of New Mexico can fit in one of the 5 boroughs of New York with room to spare. And yet our population is crammed into the space that is easily three times the size of New York State. I also understand that this little post does not begin to cover what is being overlooked.
Let me come back to my Christian witness. I have had one well-meaning person, more, tell me that as Christians, we are to obey the laws of the land. The reference is Romans 13. Peter’s letters tell us that we should live our lives so that Jesus is appealing. So yes, I should wear a mask.
Naturally, that brings me to the second charge, that of not caring. I heard this when last month I posted a math problem. It was the number of active cases divided by the population of New Mexico. The answer was less than half of one percent. I like simple math. Unfortunately, my use of it has called into question my sympathy. Why? Math is hard because it is cold. But if you know me, you know that I am very caring. God even blessed me with a larger heart than most. My cardie is concerned about that.
Seriously though, I do care about people. I want to help those who need help. The idea of my hurting someone unintentionally makes me ill. It brings no comfort to the person hurt. And it brings shame to my witness, to my Heavenly Father. My aim is to encourage, to offer hope.
And yet I feel left out. I feel ostracized by society. I know I am not alone. I am a member of a quieter group, a group that seems to be ignored. I saw our governor address my group, but not in a hopeful or helpful way. You see, I am part of the group that Can't. Mind you, not all of us are of the same mind. Some of us would wear a mask if we could, but as many would not wear a mask if they could wear a mask. Whatever our reasons, we are united in that we cannot wear a mask. Some have medical reasons such as myself. Some have psychological or mental health reasons that are ever as valid as my own reasons.
Here, I will divulge information some have advised me not to because it really is not anyone’s business. The other week I posted about wearing my mask to Sam’s Club. In the time it took me to walk to the back of the store, gentle gait in no hurry, I was dizzy. By the time I knelt and took off my mask, I was already losing coherence. I nearly passed out. A friend suggested that it could have been sparked by deep-seated anxiety. She has a valid point that I did not want to dismiss. I was slow in my answer to her, but that question still lingered, because I was upset at how drastically we have changed as a nation, as a community, and mostly by how ugly people were being to one another. Could this have been an anxiety attack? Maybe.
A week later, I had several appointments in a single day because my specialists were finally able to keep the appointments that I made for April. During one visit, I asked the nurse if I could try something. My O2 levels are great, generally at 99. Within a few minutes, my O2 dropped to 94. At five it was at 86 and I became dizzy. Then he put a stop to the experiment. (I think he did not want to explain to my doctor or his supervisor why I was allowed to collapse.) But that was just sitting there, no exertion, with my simple bandana, unlike the proper cloth mask that I wore to Sam’s while walking. One of my other specialists gave me the documentation I would need to carry to carry out my job duties without wearing a mask. It was not anxiety, but an actual issue compounded by my A-Fib. (At least my heart knows how to salsa dance!)
And there is more. As a minister, my weakest point of ministry was hospital calling. I do not like to make hospital calls. It is not that I do not care about the people. It is that whenever I visited people in the hospital, I would spend the next two days sick. Why? Because my birth was a bit early, I have compromised immunity. I have no ability to retain antibodies. (At least I will never grow resistant to antibiotics.) Back in February, my son was out and about, as my teens are prone to be. He came home and became ill. After a couple of days, thinking it was safe, I went into his room and upon taking my only breath in his foul air, I knew I was in trouble. In an hour, I was sick. I had a cold. It was the most painful cold I have had. Come to think, it was the first cold I have ever had. For that weekend, I was sick. I fought it with vitamin C. I fought it with diet. I fought it with prayer. The illness was only a few days, praise to our Father. Was it COVID? Who knows? I cannot be tested because that is my nature. I had mumps, a childhood disease that should only be a one and done, twice that I can recall because I did not build a resistance. I got sick easily. I still do.
So, know that when you see me in public, I am very circumspect in my actions and where I go and who I see. I deeply appreciate your concern for my vulnerability. I do not make light of it; I will not dismiss it. I have done my own research and have drawn my own conclusions. Because of our Christian witness, half our family wear masks. Also, if you appear to be less than par, I will not approach you. I will keep you beyond arm’s length. This is something that I have had to live with for decades.
Here is what I want you to take away from this: Some may wear a mask. Some may not wear a mask. Some may not be able to wear a mask. When you see someone doing something different than yourself, think of a way to be an encourager. “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” – Colossians 4.6
Thank you for reading my thoughts. May the Father’s blessings shower upon you.