We can easily list all the things “taken” from us in 2020.
Some of those are devastating–loss of life, loss of provision through job or a business, loss or separation from family, loss of a spouse through divorce or death, loss of support for our special needs children.
Some of those things are frustrating–lost trips, lost markers of celebrations for occasions we have planned years for, lost deals, lost educational experiences, lost mental health.
Some of them are annoying–in the day in and day out. I think we could all make a list here whether it’s hating the inconveniences that COVID life brings through every gathering of people looking different, wearing masks, keeping distance, etc.
What in my life looks the same as it did one year ago? I live in the same house with the same family. In reality, though, none of my family is the same as we were when we galloped carefree through Disney World in February. In fact, every single person on earth has had an adjustment–some more distinct than others. When can we say that about anything else in our lives? That’s a sobering thought.
Everything else has “flipped-turned upside down” from the way we eat, to lack of travel, to the reevaluation of physical touch, to the lack of a social calendar, to the way education looks, to the way we worship, to the lack of people we interact with daily, to the way we work, to the awareness of others.
What happens when our lives flip upside down?
There is definitely grief. Grief is simply the natural reaction to loss. We all deal with it. Some deal more head on and in healthier ways than others. If you have experienced sadness, frustration, angst, explosive anger, irritability, a wrestling in your spirit…those are a few ways that grief trickles out. We all have different ways of processing it, and I bet you have found yourself needing grace from others because of the clumsiness of your grief in the midst. For some, this is more pronounced. For some, this has brought a fight to resume the “normal” and to fight against governing authorities. For some, this has brought despair. For some, this has brought fissures in family and relationships.
Contrary to what I have written so far, I am going to be examining what opportunities I have gained in this “unprecedented time.” It’s a choice that I have had to make, albeit while kicking and screaming in the beginning.
Synonyms for opportunity include chance, opening, time, turn, moment, possibility, occasion… This is not an “opportunity” any of us sought. Most people never seek out loss and pain and suffering. However, if we reflect on the most impactful times of our lives, there’s usually a hardship–loss, struggle, frustration, anger, and wrestling. How we choose to deal with it is what transforms us in the midst.
Because I have had practice and lots of stumbling and a good good gracious loving and kind Father in God, I remember the drill. I am here to encourage you to remember or embrace it, too. Opportunities are often not taken. Let’s encourage one another along the way.
Opportunities presented during COVID 19:
We have the opportunity to see what we were depending on for comfort. Most of our life distractions and entertainments have disappeared or, at the least, have become stale. (streaming services and reality TV don’t have the same shine as they did seven months ago, huh?) It’s not as easy to whip up plans to decompress from a hard week.
We have the opportunity to see where busyness was a toxic part of our lives. We have had the opportunity to experience boredom in comparison to busyness. We have the opportunity to see where we might forsake parts of our schedule in the future once we examine a slower life.
We have the opportunity to see where we have created noise to avoid as well as the opportunity to examine why we have been avoiding things.
We have had the opportunity to see that virtual life has some value but there is no substitute for an in person connection to others.
We have had the opportunity to look around, to embrace things like walks, bike rides, quiet nights outside, parks, stars, board games, art, puzzles…you know, the old fashioned stuff.
I, along with some others, have had the opportunity to feel the squeeze of having a family member who is high risk to COVID. This has affected literally every interaction, every schedule, every decision, every thought of the “future” in our lives. When I say EVERY, I mean EVERY.
As I ponder all the things that have changed, I have to ponder my heart and my outlook. This has been a season of being turned inside out, of dying to self, of lots of sighing, of treasuring simplicity. I think we all lived mornings in the Spring and early Summer where we thought we were on a hamster wheel and did not know one day from the next.
This has been a season of dependence on the Lord. Now, it took me awhile to get there. Describing my season of “crisis schooling” in the Spring goes a little something like this: “if there was literally anywhere to go or to run away to, I would have sprinted.” Air Bnb–nope. Hotel–nope. Mother’s house–nope. Beach–nope. Anywhere away from noise and assignments–nope. Go to a restaurant–nope. New tv shows–nope.
There was a moment where I looked myself in the mirror and in the heart with the Lord and knew that the whining and the thrashing was over. I knew life was not going to morph quickly. My husband needed me. My kids needed me. They needed all of me. The all of me that struggles with depression and anxiety, that feels perfectionistic tendencies, that loses her temper, that loves to have fun, that is not the typical “got-it-all-together momma.”
I had to find a way to “show up” in the day to day because the day to day was what we had. I wanted to nap through the hard, but the hard wasn’t leaving. So, I started choosing to get dressed. I put on lipstick if nothing else. I didn’t get a new personality, but, through the Lord, I got a new perspective day by day.
AN ASIDE: Now…as you are reading this and rolling your eyes, I need you to know that this season has literally transformed my hair to gray and my attitude to constant sighing. We have gotten hard diagnoses, bad news, blistering criticisms, been isolated, etc–it’s easy to type those–it’s weighty to live them. So, I am not blowing smoke or trying to present an Instagram version of life.
And now, I am, gulp, homeschooling my children and am actually all in. This requires me to prioritize things that were not even on my radar 12 months ago. A lesson of great worth: My life is not my own. I am never away from my children. I got to taste the freedom of having two kids in school for 3/4 of the year last year, and now, it’s reversal of fortune. I would have told you last year that this would be impossible for me–that I am not made to roll that way. And yet, the Lord stretches and toughens me and actually transforms my heart in trust. It is because of HIM that I have hope and that my interest in and love and like for my children has grown. (are we allowed to say that?) This is an opportunity.
Let me be clear—this is an opportunity I would NOT have chosen without COVID-19. However, even when it’s hard and I feel like I am literally “sucking” at the job, I tuck my boys in with great thanks and wonder. It is a privilege. I am delighting in learning and praying that they do, as well. My perspective is changing every day. I am not perfect. I am not “made for this.” I am not doing as well as the pictures on social media express. However, it is a beautiful opportunity I would have missed without COVID-19.
Another opportunity I have gained–a chance to view the world and people’s perspectives a little differently. My husband is at high risk therefore all of us live at high risk. Our every move is thought of cautiously. I am beginning to experience things as I never have before. Greg often says I bebop throughout life thinking the consequences are little. It’s really true. I have this “it’s all going to work out” mentality. However, I am seeing the gravity of this situation. It is not going to, nor has it, all worked out for people. There is a real threat that has caused real death and real complications to people. We cannot gage who it will be no big deal for. Even small as a percentage, people are dying. Some of those people where high risk and some were not. I have heard sad stories from friends who have lost family members from COVID and have walked out extra grief in the midst because they could not “be with” them and the burial was so hard and different. So, a positive attitude and some sunshine do not color our circumstances differently. There are REAL CONSEQUENCES for my often flippant decisions. One careless mistake could forever shadow our lives. As the “Lower percentage of people” of risk in the COVID times, I have begun to experience life and to listen in a different way. I have felt the “yeah but only a certain percentage are at risk” dismissal. And then, you add in people actively working against protocols–good people who believe fiercely that this is a hoax or being used as a political ploy. It is really hard to have a loving and kind attitude in the midst, but I keep praying when anger bubbles and I have unfollowed the noise to protect my heart and mind to be able to shepherd my children well.
Hmmmm. This invites a whole new discussion. I am a white, Christian upper middle class female in the southern United States. I have not ever felt a huge push back of being EXTREMELY different. But, this is the first time I have felt my family dismissed. It intersects with people who have felt dismissed for their whole lives (I have not experienced that–just a TINY drop of a taste.) So, I think you can see where this is going. I have begun to listen in a different way to families and people who have been dismissed by the majority.
It is easy to look at utilitarian policy instead of looking at people. Truthfully, we all automatically operate out of our experience and what we need for life to work for us. That is inherent to human nature, and every single one of us does it. It is when we experience something different or we engage with those who have experienced a different story that we realize that things may not be as simple as we have defined. So, thanks to this season, I am beginning to take the opportunity to listen differently instead of preparing my talking points. I am reminded that each person has a story and hurts and obstacles and needs. Most people in this world do not live in my experience and it matters that I stop, recognize that, ask questions, listen, pray, and engage as God leads.
“Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger…” (James 1:19)
When that verse was inspired by the Spirit, He knew that social media would come. He knew about 2020 and all the other years of history that would turn people upside down (because this is not a new occurrence in the human experience.) This season has been an opportunity to practice thoughtfulness, self-control and prayerfulness when we are operating at a deficit of patience…
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
Instead of living in a world of talking points, we are invited into an opportunity of building relationship, of engagement, of wrestling within our hearts. There is Truth found in the very words of God…truth that transforms. However, we all need to examine the manner in which we dispense it… gentle, respectful, graceful (with favor the person does not deserve), seasoned. There is a HOPE and GOOD NEWS that stands, and we are placed where we live and in this time for a reason…
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him…for in Him we live and move and have our being… Acts 17:26-28
So, the next 2 weeks-21 months is going to present new opportunities. We each have our own story, things that are important to us, needs and people in our lives that are very very difficult to navigate. Each of those people is operating at a deficit–probably at their worst.
We do not know the future, but we do know it is not going to be filled with simple answers or bring peace (a civil war is here and growing). The person that brings burning anger within you the most, needs grace and truth. The more polarized we become, the more tempting it is to write people off and not treat them as real people with real needs and emotions. We do not have to drink up their social media posts or herald their cause, but we need to humble ourselves and not look at people as objects even though they might treat you in that fashion.
Some opportunities we might take for our own soul:
*We might choose to redefine our social media lives and not feed our hearts there. *We might choose not to carry out conversations on posts but rather engage one on one with others. *We might guard our hearts against “research” on the internet for our “side” and choose to immerse ourselves in Bible Study from the source instead of about the source. *We might look for opportunities to serve others and look beyond our own despair. *We might choose 5 people who are different from us to pray for daily—not for them to become like us but for them to encounter growth in God. *We might find ways to guard our hearts by limiting time online, moving our bodies, taking care of our souls, getting good nutrition, being in the Word in order to live and to speak and to move in Grace, gentleness, truth, and respect. *We might find ways to recognize how we are feeding the problems within ourselves and with others…humility is an important place to start. *We might take time to choose gratitude daily and to share an encouraging word with people daily.
This is hard work, and it is not letting up. We need each other in the midst. Let the end of 2020 and the year of 2021 be filled with opportunities taken individually and collectively.