The Wrong Leg (and Other Cheap Substitutes)

By Corey Hatfield

I’ve embarrassingly grabbed the wrong leg a few times in my life. I’ve often reached for the nearest limb, intending to orient and steady myself in a crowd. If vigilant, I would have realized that something wasn’t quite right…perhaps the fabric was too starchy, the stance overly rigid, the smell unfamiliar. Ultimately, I should have realized that the leg in my possession felt nothing like my mother’s. But I was lost in a child’s wonderland, never thinking to question whether I was wrapped around the wrong leg.

Eventually, her voice calling from afar, would jolt me out of my reverie and snap my gaze upward. Expecting the reassurance of a familiar face, I instead experienced the sheer terror of finding myself lost and alone. My illusory security vanished, and the world grew instantly frightening. 

So we find ourselves…history in the making. While scientists say the Coronavirus is not a living organism, it feels remarkably active and alive. It has singlehandedly isolated, confined and stripped us of all normalcy and security. It hunts our weaknesses with predatory precision. Are you deathly afraid of economic collapse or food shortages, of being stuck with family or perhaps alone, losing a loved one, dying alone? 

“Ha! Take all of that!” shouts this virus. 

It even has the audacity to try to thwart our liturgical gatherings and our ability to receive the Eucharist as a body…right before Holy Week nonetheless! It’s a tad reminiscent of the Grinch who tried to prevent Christmas by stealing the presents, as if the Enemy is trying to strip us bare as poor Job to see if we will buckle; so we sift through our burdens like ashes, naked and isolated, trying to make sense of the mess and breathe through the fear.

But as my mother’s far-off voice caused me to realize that the source of my alleged security was in fact the very source of my fear, so God the Father is calling to us. For some, the sound of His voice creates disorientation and panic, as we realize we have been holding onto the wrong leg of security…busyness, work, money, stability, friends, etc… We desperately claw for a cheap and speedy substitute…pseudo-busyness, online shopping, alcohol, Netflix. Still the panic resides.

Perhaps the solution lies not in global response, but rather in counterintuitively growing small. Perhaps this is the time to dig deep, grow silent and travel inward, to acknowledge our brokenness and fears, and to “humbly cast your eyes down toward your feet, and to figure out which step to take where,” as St. Theophan the Recluse says. This is an opportunity to let go of false securities, though perhaps with fearful shaking hands, and transfer our grasp to the One who calms the storm. 

Christ calls out to each one of us, not to shame us for being lost, but to remind us that we belong to Him. We must be willing to let go of the overly starchy, unfamiliar smelling pant-leg, and reach out for what is true. May we be strengthened as we journey inward toward the Paschal light burning brightly within each of us…

“To come to what you know not, you must go by a way where you know not. Growth may not feel like growth, and we need encouragement that there is somewhere to go, if we are to sail on.”

-St. John of the Cross

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