By now, I think it is safe to say that Earth has failed the marshmallow test. (For those who are unfamiliar with the test, a child is told that they can have one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later.)
Here’s what we want: to hug each other; to see our children and grandchildren and parents and grandparents and friends; to go back to work; to have a stable economy; to be healthy; to travel; and to celebrate holidays and special occasions with the people we love.
Here’s what we (not all of us, but a significant portion of humans) seem to want more: not to wear a mask.
When we look at it this way, it’s kind of ridiculous. For example, 550 people have already been banned from Delta because they refused to wear a mask. What they wanted: to travel. What they wanted more: not to wear a mask.
Some countries are already back to normal, for example, Iceland. Many other countries are doing better than us. They wore masks. We should have been a lot further along by now; instead we’re at our worst level ever. Theologically, this is the result of free will, which we usually like having, but in this case, oops.
We are about to face a very simple proposition: the type of Christmas we have will be decided by the type of Thanksgiving we have. One prominent New York lawmaker has already said that he’s having a large party on Thanksgiving and the governor knows where he lives and can arrest him. Is this a manly, admirable attitude?
But maybe we’re framing this the wrong way. The Marshmallow Test is not about sin, but self-control: the last and perhaps least celebrated Fruit of the Spirit. I often fail the test in my own house; for example, where is my leftover Halloween candy that was supposed to last until Christmas? Someone else in my house must have eaten it all. Oh wait, I live alone. Well, someone must have broken in and just eaten peanut butter cups.
It’s easy to cast blame and to call people selfish. But although it’s sadder, it may be more realistic to say that people have little self-control. Even before the pandemic, our attention spans were shrinking along with our capacity for delayed gratification.
This is nothing new. In the desert, the Devil tempted Jesus (who hadn’t eaten for 40 days) to turn stones into bread. But Jesus refused, saying, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that God speaks.” So it’s possible to resist temptation; we just need the desire to do so.
So how do we get out of this? Saying, “you can have one party now or two parties later” hasn’t worked. Saying, “you can have a short lockdown now or a long lockdown later” hasn’t worked. Even being blunt and saying, “Don’t kill grandma” hasn’t worked. So let’s try something new.
The main reasons cited for not wearing masks include 1) freedom and 2) it makes one look weak.
So let’s flip this around.
Our country is blessed with many strong Americans, willing to make small sacrifices for the greater good, such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing. What they call habit, God calls heroism ~ because only God knows which persons, by wearing masks, have honored Jesus by saving the lives of others.
We pray for all Americans who are too weak to wear masks ~ not physically weak, but emotionally and spiritually weak. We pray for them because they have little or no self-control. They are unable to make small sacrifices now in order to receive great gains later. They are not even as strong as many preschoolers, who are able to pass the marshmallow test. Lord, we pray for these poor, pitiful, weak Americans to become strong, so that our nation will become strong and healthy again. Amen.
“Someone will say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’ Yes; but not everything is good for you.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:12, Good News Bible
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23, Revised Standard Version