Are we all now snowflakes?
By Marcus Honeysett (ed. Richard Thor Collins) This post first appeared on Marcus' blog - Digital H2O - on March 27.
The top definition in the Urban Dictionary:
A term for someone who thinks they are unique and special, but really are not . . . Began being used extensively as a putdown for someone, usually on the political left, who is easily offended or felt they needed a safe space away from the harsh realities of the world.
Personally, I don’t like the term. I think it’s unfair.
The generation of so-called snowflakes face an uncertain world. Many feel that the foundations that once provided security and hope are no longer there. They feel cheated. Some are angry. As a response, they’ve sought solace in creating their own identities, which are affirmed by their peers, regardless of how absurd these are. Nevertheless, harsh realities remain the same. A lack of meaningful work, shallow relationships and high debt levels for the young make life feel empty and frightening. Furthermore, healthy role models have disappeared along with family structures which once provided a foundation.
So they’re anxious. Not surprising, really.
It is entirely understandable if people search for meaning in rage or activism. It’s surely not hard to understand why the young seek insulation from the world through safe spaces and trigger warnings. A fantasy world is so much more . . . appealing. So I certainly understand their motives, even if I question their response.
I suspect the coronavirus might make us all a little more sympathetic to this generation of so-called ‘snowflakes.’ Remove some of our cherished foundations, and we may also find ourselves as vulnerable as the anxious teen next door. Yet, some positive effects might also follow.
1) We might gain some sympathy for those we have previously designated weak and selfish. We might even ditch that odious response, ‘pull yourself together.’
2) We might come to realise how unreliable our crutches are – the things we use to bolster our sense of safety. Brittle foundations are easily exposed at a time like this. They crumble if the blow is strong enough.
So I am very sympathetic to people who want comfort and safety when the world is falling to pieces. My concern is that safe spaces and trigger warnings are unlikely to be fit for purpose. They are inadequate to the task. At worst, they lead to denial.
The truth is, there is only one truly safe place. As the writer of Proverbs reminds us, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and they are safe’ (Prov.18.10). When God exiled most of his people to Babylon, some of those who managed to remain in Jerusalem started to think themselves safe. They said, “This city is a protective iron pot and we are the meat.’ (Ezek. 11). God responds by telling them their days are numbered, he will eventually exile all of them. But he goes on to add that his presence and protection are actually with the exiles, the destitute, the insecure and those far from home. The veneer of safety was never going to save the smug Jerusalem elites. Only the presence of God could do that.
How can we experience God’s presence during these terrible times? Far too early this morning my young son crawled into my bed, pulled my arms around him and murmured ‘nice and warm.’ In my half-asleep state, I thought, ‘that’s a good picture of what God wants us to do.’ Jesus told his disciples to remain in him, and thereby in the love of the Father, so that his joy may be in them and their joy may be complete. He says the way to do that is by his word remaining in us. When we bury his word as deeply in our hearts as we can, we remain in him, and as a consequence, we are safe in him and in his joy. And what does this joy accomplish for us? The joy of the Lord is our strength. (Neh. 8.10)
It’s easy to think this isn’t a practical answer to all the insecurities we are facing – jobs, food, physical health. And certainly these things are important. But they are not ultimately important. Romans 14:17 says that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The first Christians threw away all their desire for comfort for the sake of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Even today, Christians are beheaded for the sake of these things.
We are comforted in trouble, not just by the absence of it. True comfort is a by-product of secure faith and having our eyes fixed on Jesus. Don’t think this is just a platitude. If you’ve read my last couple of blog posts, you know how disoriented I feel. A wise friend reminded me that as a leader, I’m not required to be a strong leader to whom others look. The essential thing is that I’m weak and needy, hanging onto a super-strong Saviour, and I point others to him.
How do we keep going? I think it is a matter of snuggling in. We need to be reminded daily of the character of God, our mighty fortress. We need to remind ourselves daily - through Scripture, prayer and worship – that a mighty fortress is our God. The rubber really hits the road when we ask the question, ‘Is God actually going to care for me, really?" Will we truly believe it? Surface-deep faith just isn’t enough. We need to go deeper.
So why not dig deep into one of the gospels? Spend a whole morning just reading about Jesus. Let the words lead you to worship. Perhaps you could also take some of the great prayers in the NT and pray them. Perhaps memorise them.
This virus is not just a huge challenge, it’s an opportunity. To press in more, to spend more time in God’s Word. To grow in our faith. For we have a mighty, loving, compassionate God, who is faithful, good and true.