I took the magnetic calendar off my refrigerator and carried it over to the couch. Typically I looked forward to filling in the next months’ activities, using color-coded dry-erase markers to denote work obligations and social gatherings, adding little colorful flourishes and festive doodles along the borders.
I erased March and stared at the blank month before me.
Was there even a point? There were no social plans, no work commitments, no family BBQs, or birthday dinners. Travel plans had been suspended, happy hour was cancelled, and half of my on-going to-do list became undoable.
The blank calendar smacked of solitude, of rest, of being alone with my thoughts.
I was little bit apprehensive and afraid of this unknown, unwritten, unplanned beast. What was I going to do with all of this time? I felt like I had to be productive, doing SOMETHING.
I tentatively began to write in the dates. I stared. I filled in Easter and Good Friday. I stared. I chewed on a marker cap.
Finally, I decided to plan and write our dinner menu for the next two weeks. These were my big events.
I hung the calendar back on the fridge. It looked calm, rhythmic. It didn’t have the harried scribbles, the frantic cramped writing, striving to squeeze just one more activity into the day.
For those of us who aren’t bravely fighting on the front lines working to provide medical care and essential supplies, the world has ground to a halt. And while disease, economic upturn, and financial strain are not issues to take lightly, whether I like it or not, at the moment I am stuck. Right now, everyone has their own hurts, their own worries, their own unique battles they are facing. For me, and for many others, life has been stripped of the “unnecessary” and the superfluous—even if those things felt very necessary to me before.
At first I raged against the loss of my plans, my social life—normality. I mourned the changes that were occurring, the upheaval of expectations.
For the first time in a long time…I found myself with time on my hands. I could no longer fall back on my “too busy” excuse, slipping out of quiet time with God, prioritizing the immediate over the eternal. There was no Pilates class to get to, no gas to get before work, no lunches to pack. There was only stillness. My excuses ran out. In the slower pace, I began to give myself—began to give God—space to reveal the areas of my heart that require attention but have seemed too daunting to explore, too painful to heal, too time-consuming to bother.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 discusses that there is a time for everything—yes, even that which is uncomfortable.
“A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away..
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.”
Let’s face it, if these changes had not been thrust upon us, most would continue with the routine of busy.
But…perhaps this is our time, a season where less becomes more as we dig deep into a place of solitude and rest. Our time to quiet the noise, the frantic, the raging demands, and listen to what God says about us, about our lives. Maybe this is the time to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable for the sake of growth. Our time to recharge, to cast off the voice of the world that screams we must constantly achieve, constantly earn, constantly be doing something, ANYTHING, to be worthy and successful.
Perhaps the biggest lie we have believed as a culture is that rest and rejuvenation are a waste of time, that your emotional and spiritual health are a necessary sacrifice on the altar of constantly doing. But rest is one of God’s commandments. You cannot hear yourself, hear the voice of God, without first quieting the roar of the crowd.
When Jesus wanted to commune most deeply with God, he escaped into solitude.
As much as I hate to admit it, we do not heal without discomfort. There is no growth, no harvest, without first breaking the soil. Our mistake has been in always rushing to the next, spreading ourselves too thin while never allowing for a slow down, for a recharge, for a rebirth and renewal—for communion with God.
Much like this lockdown, our priorities are often thrust upon us. The world says this standard matters more than your sanity; you HAVE to show up to this event; you’ve got to work overtime to pay that bill.
But now it has stopped. Although there are unknowns in this season, anxieties and challenges that we have never experienced before, the noise has quieted. The obligations uprooted. This is our time, our time to discover who we are, to discover who God is when all else is stripped away. In the quiet, reassess your life’s trajectory, the priorities that have happened by default, the relationships that need attention.
Embrace the slower pace, embrace the extra time. Explore who you are, the kind of life you want to lead. Determine what your new normal will be, even as the world begins to turn once more.
Slow is not necessarily bad. An unhurried life is one that pays attention to the little moments, to the gifts of now. An unhurried life examines feelings instead of running from them, drowning unpleasant emotions and thoughts with outside stimuli. When we live unhurried, we can find joy and fulfillment in the menial tasks—the menus made, the dishes done. When we live unhurried, the day to day necessities can become joy instead of burden or another frenzied sprint. An unhurried life notices, relishing in every moment, every pocket of grace. An unhurried life prioritizes health, healing, and purpose over productivity. And ultimately, an unhurried life understands that God invites us to know Him in the stillness.
There are simple joys to be found in this upheaval, in this slow down—long walks, lazy mornings, extra long baby cuddles, being with family. Life does not have to consist of big thrill after big thrill in order to be thrilling.
Let’s face it, this isn’t anyone’s ideal situation… But throughout history, God has taken the unideal and used it to make something beautiful. Maybe in society. Maybe in you.
I know many of us have obstacles to overcome in this season—fear, working from home, homeschooling, the panic of the grocery store, and trying to keep everyone healthy. It may even be that you have less time than usual. But while there will always be obligations we must fulfill, we can take time, even if its 10 minutes every other day, and establish real, healthy priorities. Give yourself space to know your own heart and the heart of God.
This time at home has been given to you, even if you didn’t want it. It won’t last forever, but perhaps the lessons and the growth will. During this short season, give yourself permission to just be.