A Time To Be
We’re now in week two of quarantine due to the Coronavirus. Everything we have known and have done and have been has been upended because of this virus, and we find ourselves in the midst of a new normal. It’s strange isn’t it? It can be confusing. It can be heartbreaking. Many have lost their jobs. Most of us are struggling with knowing how to balance working from home while everyone else is home too. Being abruptly uprooted from our routines and our securities can leave us scrambling to rediscover and re-establish how we are in this midst of this pandemic.
I’m reminded of the words of Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV):
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I believe this is one of those times, a time to be. This can feel very foreign to our largely Enneagram type 3 achieving, performance driven culture. To suddenly have our routines and social plans ripped away from us with no end in sight can be very scary. Learning to be is a new skill we will need to learn if all we know about identity involves do-ing.
A few years ago I encountered this very situation. My identity that I had spent decades establishing was suddenly shattered. The rug had been pulled out under my feet. I discovered I had built my house on the sand, and out of my own strength. I needed to find a new identity and a new way of being. I needed to remind myself who God was and who I was, and build my house on the rock. I needed to let go of all the things I was trying to control, and all of the things I was trying to create in my own image.
We’re currently in the season of Lent. Lent is traditionally the 40 day period leading up to Easter. It is the time where the worldwide church will prepare for Easter through prayer, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. I had my plans for Lent this year; I was planning on giving up alcohol, sweets, and social media. Before the coronavirus was known to have hit Ohio, I preached a sermon at church about fasting/abstaining and praying during Lent. Fasting wasn’t something I had thought about seriously engaging in for over a decade. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic reaching our cities it has become a revisited practice and one that I feel called to engage in every Monday for as long as this lasts.
We’ve all been forced into a new season of Lent, one that requires us to give up our ways that are known, and one that largely calls us to wait and to be. I’ve ended up giving up my planned Lent abstinences as we’re in a time of corporate abstinence without an end in sight. We’re all being called to give up meeting together, practice social distancing, and stay home. For many of us it’s uncharted territory, but it doesn’t need to be a downer. I believe this can be an opportunity if we allow it to be.
Psalm 46 (NIV) says:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
I highlighted the phrase that I believe is key to taking advantage of the opportunity presented to us. Our life is normally full of lots of activities and because of that we also have many distractions that keep us from connecting with God. I know God is there and God can be known. God still speaks. But, in order to hear God you need to slow down and be still and listen.
Normally our lives wouldn’t afford us the bandwidth to even think about this. For most of us our schedules have been largely opened due to this pandemic. Sure, you can fill your time with binge watching netflix, but I believe that would be a wasted opportunity. Instead perhaps you take some time each day, perhaps even just a half hour to get outside and be. Spend that time talking with God and spend that time listening. Become aware of your surroundings. What is God showing you through creation? What is God saying to you? How can you respond? Are there any songs on your heart you can sing in response? Are there scripture passages you can meditate on? Can you just be quiet and receive?
Are you anxious? Tell God about it. Are you angry? Tell God about it. Get outside and take a walk; I find it easier to think if I’m moving and find it easier to reconnect with God if I go outside.
Yes, this is an unusual time. It requires new creativity and there are new challenges to overcome, but I encourage you to not be discouraged. Don’t let the news cycles dictate your existence or your temperament. Don’t let your stock portfolio determine how well this time will be for you. Decide how you want to be and how you want to respond. I encourage you to accept our new collective normal and see it as an opportunity rather than just a burden. Take advantage of this time to be and practice be-ing.