Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow
Cat Stevens (now, Yusuf Islam) said a few years ago of his song, "Moonshadow," that its inspiration was a happy trip to Spain as a young man. Away from city lights, he delighted in a bright moon that cast his shadow on the ground. But songs acquire myths to explain them when the artist does not. The tale going around when I was in college (and this song was new) was that Stevens had been very ill with some disease (rumored to be tuberculosis) and he was living with the fear of its return.
Certainly, the song can give the impression of something stalking the singer, threatening his life to where he faces the loss of his hands, his legs, his eyes, his mouth, to which he can only reply, "Oh if -- I won't have to work/walk/cry/[talk] no more." And the song's bridge speaks of "the faithful light," asking, "Did it take long to find me?"
Those who have lived long with some ill-repressed fear resonate to the myth surrounding the song. I watched my father die of ALS. Nine months on a ventilator, the last five in a coma. At least once a week, I was there by his bedside. The horror of it stayed with me for a long time. And for years, every time I felt a wee bit "off" -- my legs were tired (ALS can start in the legs!) or I was clumsy with my hands, or when seasonal allergies (which I had never suffered from before) began to make me hack up mucus -- I thought, "oh no -- what if this is ALS?" And then, I went through a run of several years where I had three different parishioners end their lives on ventilators; none had ALS, but I can't describe how I felt putting on my pastor face to go and support them in their hospitalizations.
Recently, a boy who used to be a parishioner, a survivor of childhood leukemia, received a fresh diagnosis of its return. He just missed his one-year anniversary of being cancer-free. So now, he's in the hospital, starting all over. The coronavirus outbreak has stranded him and his mom in the hospital and left his dad and two older siblings on their own. I don't know when he'll be able to come home. But when he went in, I tried to imagine how he must be feeling, and I remembered this song and its myth. He's probably never heard it; he's only fourteen.
Meanwhile, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, a lot of people are feeling scared. Anybody could be sick. You could catch the virus from all kinds of people, from touching all kinds of usual objects. Some are compulsively cleaning (not but what most of us could be better at house cleaning, for sure). Others deal with it in other ways. But the fear is very real, of this -- thing -- this shadow that is stalking -- them? Even them?
In the end, all you can do is to put your life in God's hands. Believe the promises of Jesus. Practice the peace of the holy Spirit. Go about your daily tasks. Don't be stupid, but don't obsess over it. All of us die, sometime, but wasting your days in anguish caused by your overactive imagination will not only get in your way of doing what needs to be done, but suck all the joy that could be had out of your days.
The Psalmist must have been feeling somewhat like that, when he wrote (Ps. 91:3-6),
For [God] will deliver you from the snare of the fowlerIn fact, I'd recommend reading all of Psalm 91, if you're looking for something to hang onto in these fearful times.
and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.