Buckle up, folks. This is going to be a long one. Fortunately for me, no one has anything else to do 😉
The last time I wrote it seemed like there might still be some slim chance of snatching normalcy back. (Is it possible that was only a week ago?) Now there is no hope for that. But I maintain my main themes: today is STILL the day that the Lord has made. We can STILL rejoice and, yes, even be glad in it. Fear is STILL not the answer. But…what do we do?
I was thinking, as I walked back from class for the very last time on Tuesday, about growing up. I used to learn about historical periods, or read records in the Bible about people rising up during the worst of times and making me proud to be human. The great things and the simple things. Moses leading his people out of Egypt. Opposing soldiers calling a truce for a day to celebrate Christmas together. The shipyard workers raising and repairing 13 of the 16 ships damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor in time for them to fight during final years of the war. The “angels of Bataan” who nursed the wounded and ill soldiers throughout the Bataan death march. I used to wish, deep in my heart of hearts, for a time that wasn’t so average, a time when something different would happen and the world would have the chance to prove its mettle. Be careful what you wish for. I would hope and pray that when the time came, I would have the strength to be one of those people.
Well the time, at least in some small measure, has come. We have on our hands, not just a very bizarre and rather dark time (although it is that), but a set of unprecedented opportunities. And my most fervent prayer during this time is that I wouldn’t waste them. I believe each and every one of us was placed where we are now “for such a time as this,” if we would only seize our opportunities. I don’t want to walk past an opportunity to serve. I don’t want to miss a lesson I could learn or growth I could experience during this time. I don’t want to get to the end of this lockdown situation and look back and think, “Well I certainly caught up on all my Netflix shows.” I want to look back and know I did something useful. I soothed someone’s fears or eased someone’s suffering. I want to know that I’ve grown, that I’ll never be the same, but in a good way. That this experience has changed me for the better instead of for the worse. It would be so easy for this to change us for the worse. For us, as a society, to learn to put ourselves first. To withdraw more than we already have in this age of smartphones and let the world crumble around us while we self-isolate and watch our soaps. Thankfully, that’s not what I see. I see people by the thousands reaching out to take care of each other. Coming together as communities. Singing in spite of the fear. Laughing in spite of the darkness. That’s the side I choose to be on.
There are a thousand ways we can help each other in this time. I’ve been daily checking up on a neighbor who is elderly and not keen on leaving her home. Although her daughter comes and visits frequently, the thought of not having a soul know whether or not she is ok on the days her daughter isn’t around had her terrified. Something as simple as a daily hello brings her so much peace. One of the companies I work for which usually provides waiting staff for events, having no work to do since all events are cancelled, has decided to mobilize their workforce to help wherever help is needed. The city council has been positively flooded with volunteer registrations. My parents are plowing the driveway for and helping out their neighbor who has been struggling with her health. Even something as simple as a phone call to someone you know is having a rough time can be so helpful. What an open door to share God’s love, His peace, His healing power. Though churches may be closed, we are still Christians and being lights in the darkness is what we’re called to.
Besides a massive opportunity to serve each other, I think the greatest gift this situation has given us is that of time. What a shocking thing, to have our time be entirely our own. It’s unusual through the whole span of history. Always our time is being taken up. We trade it for money as we go to work every day. We spend it at concerts and activities and outings with friends. These are wonderful things, and things I can’t wait to return to when this is all over. But to have them stripped away leaves us with so much of this precious commodity that we often spend so unthinkingly. Let’s not waste our excess.
At home group on Tuesday we discussed that we’re looking forward to the opportunity to REST. I don’t mean sleep and I don’t mean “not having anything scheduled.” I mean that deep, restorative rest in God. That rest that comes from setting aside every other distraction, not having 12 different options for how you could spend your evening, turning off the phone and the computer and the TV and just being. Breathing. Having a chat with God. It’s so much easier to hear Him in the silence. I imagine that a large portion of the world will be forced into rest as they reach their limit of Netflix and World of Warcraft and Facebook. It could be disastrous. Or it could be so so healing. I pray for the latter.
There’s also plenty of time for those things “we wish we had time for.” I went for a walk on the downs today. I climbed a tree (even though that really is a summer activity…and probably a very American activity…and was a bit awkward in muddy shoes and a long coat) simply because the last time I remembered climbing a tree was YWAM, and I believe the time between tree-climbing adventures should be measured in days, not years. I played the piano, briefly. I was surprised by how soothing it was. I’ve been able to crochet, to read, to make my room nice and cozy, to actually LEARN some of the material in my courses instead of just scramble to get my assignments turned in. I’ve found I have to be very disciplined with my time to accomplish these things, because it is VERY easy to spend hours and hours on end catching up on the latest news or browsing the latest memes (which, admittedly are hilarious and worth a little bit of time) or endlessly discussing each new development with my coursemates. But if I shut out the noise for a few hours at a time, it’s easy to spend my time meaningfully.
There are plenty more lessons already learned, and many more to come, I’m sure. I know I’ll be challenged during this time. We’re all going to be stretched. The limits of our patience will be tested to the uttermost. But I believe there’s a big opportunity for all of us here, and I’m determined to make the most of it.