It’s 7 am on a Monday. I wake up and realise … there’s nowhere to go today. Since Australia went into lock-down nine weeks ago, my social calendar has been cleared out: Wedding celebrations and church programs have been postponed, face-to-face classes have been cancelled, and coffee dates have been replaced with much more time-efficient phone calls.
Personally, this period of forced isolation has provided good opportunities for me to slow down my pace and re-examine my natural love for work and busyness. By nature, I would rather have too much to do than too little: I’m the sort of person who enjoys a full and productive day; the thrill of meeting deadlines and early morning starts. People who know me often comment that I just can’t sit still. So the prospect of an indefinitely empty calendar ought to be really terrifying for me.
God has been helping me to actually enjoy this slower pace of life by increasing my appreciation for several things that I usually neglect due to my ‘go-go-go’ attitude and love for busyness.
But God has been helping me to actually enjoy this slower pace of life by increasing my appreciation for several things that I usually neglect due to my ‘go-go-go’ attitude and love for busyness. I’m hoping I can preserve these new disciplines even as Australia slowly lifts its social restrictions:
‘I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.’ Psalm 3:5
With events cancelled, I find most of my weeknights and weekends cleared. This means I have been getting more opportunities to go to bed on time, which I have enjoyed. I have been challenged to consider how taking proper rest is a natural outcome of knowing God.
In Psalm 3, for example, King David writes about sleeping even whilst running for his life. Even with his physical life under threat, he enjoys a certain restedness. He can lie down and sleep because he knows God, and knows God will sustains him. What a privilege to know that the God ‘who does not sleep nor slumber’ (Psalm 121:4) is looking after us.
In light of that, rest is an act faith; even of worship. Throughout this lockdown, I am challenged to consider how I can rest better as a response to knowing and trusting God.
Reflecting on Priorities
I tend to approach my obligations with a ‘buffet-style’ attitude, where I load my plate with whatever that looks good. This is obviously unsustainable—there are many more good things in the world that my plate could ever handle. But with more down-time between tasks, I feel myself rushing less from one task to another. I now have time, not merely to complete my tasks, but also spend some time reflecting on them afterwards. Such deliberation not only helps me get things done, but helps me to do them better.
For example, I lead a (now virtual) Bible study for youth girls weekly. Once we say good-bye and log off, I find myself immediately in a quiet room. Before the pandemic, I would usually hop into my car and meet someone for lunch elsewhere. The rest of the day would be busy with chores and church stuff. I would forget about the Bible study until it was time to prepare again for the next week. Now, in the quietness of my home, I have this precious half-hour to think, pray and plan for future Bible studies. This extra reflection helps increase my clarity and confidence when doing ministry, sharpening many aspects of my church life.
A full calendar often distracts us from tasks that are difficult but important. Strengthening weak relationships or restoring sour ones can be challenging as they often require courage and humility. I am trying to think of how I can use this time to reflect on my relationships and conduct.
A full calendar often distracts us from tasks that are difficult but important. I am trying to think of how I can use this time to reflect on my relationships and conduct.
Helpfully, the Bible has commands that cover all of us in this: for fathers (Ephesians 6:4), mothers (Proverbs 31:27-30), children (Ephesians 6:1-3), husband and wives (Ephesians 5:22-33)—typically, the people we will be spending the most time with during this period of isolation.
Based on personal experience, I find asking this question helpful in considering how we can strengthen our relationships with those we live with: Is there anything I can be doing to be a peacemaker amongst my family members (Romans 12:18)?
Finally, now might also be a good time to think of ways we can increase in servant-heartedness, particularly toward those we live with. When I’m tired of chores or eating the same food, I can make it difficult for those who live with me. I want to use this time to increase in godliness. So, it’s a good time to pray that God will use this time – and close proximity with family members – to shape us to be more like Christ, who always considered others more important than himself (Philippians 2:3-9).
We can also extend our good deeds beyond the physical home by praying for our church family, giving financially, or doing some contact-less meal drop-offs. Reading through the Good News Saturday segment, I can see that many people have been recipients of Gospel-shaped generosity during this time. What an encouragement that the spirit of God—the source of all generosity—is indeed living in us!
Social isolation can be challenging for people like me, who love having things to do and people to see. However, God in his kindness has showed me that slowing down can be good for my spiritual growth too! He is helping me to value important relationships, and emboldened me to take steps to serve those around me joyously. My prayer is that you will see his grace working in you during this time too.