By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
For some of us, we are over a month into this “new normal” of practicing social distancing and spending most of our time in our homes, rather than shuffling about from one activity, work commitment, social outing, or errand run to another.
Prior to this unprecedented halt in our daily routines, our American life could be described by one common expression: I’m just so busy.
Granted, I know not all of us feel like it’s a vacation being at home, still attempting to work, while taking care of children and now homeschooling. Quarantining is not stressless nor is it a walk in the park to juggle all the hats you wear at home without the help of the community.
Even so, there is a good chance your family is enjoying free evenings, open weekends, and those calendars are more open than they have ever been in your entire grown up life. Vacations are canceled, sports are on hold, and sadly even visits with the extended family have had to be redefined or canceled altogether.
As a Jesus follower, it’s impossible for me to live through such a strange departure from our normal and not believe there is purpose to be found in this moment. God, in His Word, makes it clear that he is present and wanting to speak to us.
He is not in the thunder, earthquake, or wind but in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:12). While I don’t believe God’s best plan for us includes such awful, ugly things like pandemics, I do see that the noise of our life has been turned down in such an unimaginable way that we may just be able to finally hear Him.
Now this is the time to dial into the Word of God. Use those beautiful spring walks or after bedtime hours to open your ears and hear what God would want to say to you in this moment.
This is a chance to pause and open our hearts. If we aren’t careful, the second the restrictions to our daily life are lifted, the noise will rush back in and busy will be our new normal again whether we like it or not.
How do we decide what we want or what we should allow back into our lives once our routines normalize again? Despite what our culture loves to shout at us, we can and likely should survive on less.
Our kids will be okay without participating in every activity. We can still love our friends and neighbors without filling up every weekend with social gatherings. Our careers can continue, even with some flexible days when we work at home with the kids buzzing around our heads.
We don’t have to say “yes” to everything and what may surprise us is that our lives are not better for having filled every open second with tasks, productivity, and commitments.
Family bonding happens in the slow moments, our kids learn when they are given free time to play, explore, and occasionally experience boredom, and we can better hear God when the noise level of our lives is quieted to a healthy level.
Here are some questions to ponder as you evaluate what you should allow back into your routine as we walk through this strange season of isolation.
1. What have you lost during the quarantine?
We’ve all had to grieve something in this season. It could be as simple as changed Easter plans or as serious as a lost loved one. There is no one this pandemic has not affected in one way or another. Allowing ourselves to be sad over our losses is healthy and necessary.
We are going through a tough thing.
Identifying what we miss most can help shed light on what commitments and people were truly adding value to your life. If your kids are missing being a part of an activity that was canceled, then it probably added meaningful value to their life.
Those things or relationships that you feel relieved to have had “taken away” may not be worth adding back to the mix.
Take the time to write a list of what your family was doing before and thoughtfully pray over what needs to remain in your life after restrictions are lifted.
2. What have you gained through this quarantine?
At the onset of this thing it was really hard to see anything positive coming from our lives being so abruptly shut down. As the shock has worn off, there are some shining silver linings that have started to come into view.
It could be slow starts to your day, free evenings for family bonding, or a greater appreciation for your child’s teacher.
What about this new normal feels like a gift? Write those things down and do your best to protect them as you move forward.
I’ve realized that simple offers so much more than I thought possible.
I love people, activities, and am a pretty strong extrovert. Prior to this I harbored anxiety about missing out, I needed to be in the action.
I’ve experienced a surprising amount of joy in this comparatively mundane existence. I look forward to hugging my loved ones and going to stores without anxiety again, but I’ve gained a new appreciation for our family of five and the joy we can have just being home together.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages
3. What has this hardship revealed about your faith?
Psalm 66:10 says that God tests us to refine us like silver. Going through this season filled with anxiety and uncertainty is for sure one of those faith refining moments!
Has the chaos in the world pushed you closer to God? Has it revealed ways you were depending solely on your ability to keep your life together?
Was the noise of your days pushing God to the “back burner”? Have these events brought up questions about your faith or eternal destination?
Has it brought to your mind lost family or friends who don’t have the hope of Jesus to anchor them through this storm?
God does not waste our pain. He can use this time to “refine us” if our hearts are open.
Take time to ponder where you are at with God. Despite not being able to meet in church buildings, God is still present in our lives.
He is not limited by the walls of church and can do great things on your behalf even while stuck home!
4. What has this hardship revealed about your family?
This season is like a family pressure cooker, truly bringing to light both the strengths and weaknesses of our family units. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t like all that you see!
Our busy lives can blind or at least distract us from issues that need to be addressed in our homes. This pause together is a chance to evaluate the trajectory of your family life.
Even the conflict you may have experienced through this transition can be a chance to grow and change.
Pray over the good, bad, and in-betweens you’ve experienced while living in much closer proximity to your loved ones. Do you see ways your kids' attitudes need to change?
Have you noticed that your patience needs a boost? (I’m pretty sure every parent has noticed this). Do you see the benefits of more protected, family only time?
Are there ways you and your spouse are processing this differently that you both need to learn from?
Don’t shy away from the revelations this season is bringing. Pay attention to what needs to change and lean into your people while you have the time.
Let the adjustments you make now inform your routine that emerges as we pick back up our lives in the months to come.
Don’t miss out on this chance to grow, heal, change, and come out stronger as a family.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Fizkes
5. What are the desires of your heart for your future?
Busy means doing what has to be done but it doesn’t necessarily mean we are doing what we want to be doing.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
Grown-up life is filled with obligation and while that will never entirely go away this is a rare chance to evaluate your life like you’ve never done before.
Prayerfully consider if God has a new path, a new normal, or a new dream for your heart. It doesn’t have to be super dramatic; even slight changes in your trajectory that reflects Jesus can make big impacts on your future.
It could be as simple as emerging from this time with a renewed sense of thankfulness for the things you had in your life and returning to them with heightened passion.
Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
This is a chance to trust God like never before. None of us can fully wrap our heads around how the whole world could come to a screeching halt over this invisible threat.
Most importantly as we begin the process of reentering society we have the chance to “submit all our ways to him” and the exciting part of all of this is that God promises that as we surrender our lives to Him in a new way He will “make our paths straight.”
The bottom line: We can trust God with our future and this grand pause is an invitation to surrender all you have back to Him in a fresh way.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Malvestida Magazine
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page, Blog or follow her on Instagram.