By Brent Rinehart, Crosswalk.com
If you are a homebody or an introvert, the last couple of months haven’t been as terrible. But, if your energy comes from being around others and in large groups, you are probably miserable.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, this COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shut-down has certainly been a challenge. We’ve all had to deal with a new reality, however temporary it may be.
In my home state of North Carolina, a statewide “stay-at-home” order went into effect on Monday, March 30. Many other states went into that mode at similar points. And, for most of us, that meant adjusting to a new way of life, only venturing out for necessities. It has meant juggling working from home (if you are able) and home-schooling kids (a task for which most of us don’t feel like we are able!).
One thing the quarantine has given many of us is time. By the sheer volume of crazy videos on TikTok and conversations about Tiger King and The Last Dance documentary on social media, it’s easy to see how many people are filling it.
Mine has been spent largely working outside in our yard, planting and working in my garden. There’s something rewarding about the act of improving your landscape--digging up weeds, adding new material to improve the soil and planting crops that will one day produce new fruit to sustain us.
I’ve found that gardening process to be a reflection of our current experiences. Weeding out the bad stuff, and planting the good, fruitful things. With the time--and perspective--we’ve been given from this crisis, I’ve come to realize there are a number of lifestyle changes that would benefit me greatly on the other side of it.
There are things in my life that now seem obsolete. And, there are things I should be focusing my attention on that are far more meaningful.
I’ve often heard it said that you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. I can’t change anything about the COVID-19 pandemic … but me. As states across the nation, including my own, begin to “reopen,” folks are starting to venture out more and more.
Eventually, things will creep back to some form of normal. But, it many respects, there are some normalcies from my old life that I don’t want to see return.
Here are 6 decisions I’ve come to make about my life moving forward after this “quarantine” is lifted. As life continues, I will...
1. Make More of an Effort with Friends and Family
While being “stuck at home,” it has shown the effort it requires to maintain many of our important relationships.
When you aren’t gathering for cookouts, birthday parties, weddings, church services and Bible studies, it’s hard to keep up with people. Social media is fine, but it doesn’t replace being together.
During this time, to maintain connection with the people you care about, you have to make an effort to check in on them. I’ve had to call people more than I usually want to, video chat, and send lots of text messages--just to see how they are holding up.
I’ve found myself reaching out to people I’ve lost contact with, just to say I was thinking about them. When all this is over, we’d benefit well from continuing to make an effort to show the people in our lives that we care about their wellbeing.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
2. Take Work/Life Balance More Seriously and Be “Present” at Home
Throughout this experience, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work from home. I realize there are many that don’t have that luxury. And, with my wife being home as well, she’s taken on the lion’s share of home-schooling help with our kids.
This has allowed me to stay productive--in fact, probably more productive than at the office. With no morning commute, few coworker distractions and wasted time, I’m able to work more efficiently.
The struggle with working from home is dividing work life from home life. For some it could be hard to turn off work when you are living at your office.
In the past, I’ve been guilty of being at home, but being elsewhere, at times. I’ve often worried about what I forgot to do at work, what I have to do tomorrow or what emails I’ve missed that are already sitting in my inbox.
This pandemic has turned the focus to what truly matters. Working from home has given me the gift of being able to do little things, like enjoy lunch with my family. It’s small, but means the world.
Work is important, and this pandemic won’t make me less dedicated to my job. However, it has given me a new appreciation for being present with my family when I’m away from it. Instead of living to work, we should work to live. And, for me, living means taking advantage of every moment I can to be with those I love the most.
3. Place More Value on My Time
With no sports to watch, it’s like I’ve gained these extra hours in my week. But, in reality, the hours have always been available.
I’ve just chosen to spend them in front of a television in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I really miss sports. I’m a huge baseball fan, so it’s been hard to not have a baseball game to have on in the background.
Eventually, it will be back, and I’ll tune in when I can. But, this situation has shown me that life goes on without it. Actually, life goes on without a lot of the things we fill our time with.
It’s amazing how when we are forced to slow down like this, we realize what we truly need. It’s back to the basics. Moving forward, scheduling my and my family’s time should be more deliberate. I know for certain that my time can be better spent than it has been in the past.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/August de Richelieu
4. Show More Appreciation and Empathy
Just like everyone else, I’ve already had an appreciation for teachers, doctors, nurses and first-responders.
It’s socially acceptable to thank them publically with a Facebook post. It looks good and feels good. Where I’ve been convicted is how I show my appreciation for these people in real life.
And, this pandemic has given new perspective and empathy to other service providers: grocery store workers, delivery drivers, small business owners, cooks and waitresses at local restaurants and more.
Saying “thank you” is great. But, what can I do to show them they are appreciated? How can I live in a way that shows grace and empathy? Coming out of this crisis, I plan to frequent more local businesses; tip even more; have more patience; write more personal thank you notes; do more random acts of kindness, particularly for those in these fields; and anything else I can do to help them and support them.
This world is an unkind place. The only way it will change is if we each practice a little more kindness.
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14
5. Approach Corporate Worship More Seriously
One of the things I’ve missed post during the pandemic is gathering each Sunday for church.
For my entire life, it’s been a part of my weekly routine. And, that’s actually part of the problem I’ve discovered. Attending church was routine. Now that it has been stripped away, I realize how casually I approached it.
I completely took this privilege for granted. I’m aware enough to know that gathering for corporate worship isn’t possible in some countries; I’ve always known that.
But, experiencing an environment where it is now deemed unsafe to be together gives me a newfound respect for the importance of church. Yes, we can gather together online and hear some songs and a message.
That’s been great, and I’m encouraged by the way God is using technology during this crisis for the Gospel to be shared digitally to thousands--even millions-- more.
But, it doesn’t replace the church building. Moving forward, I know it’s important to prepare my heart each week for gathering at church. It means spending more time in prayer, making an effort to arrive on time and with the right spirit. Going to church is a privilege and honor. We should approach this act with the reverence and respect it deserves.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
6. Memorize More Scripture
Growing up, memorizing Scripture was something I only did in Vacation Bible School. When I reached adulthood, it’s a practice that kind of slipped away.
Sure, I still read my Bible and as a natural process, I’ve come to know many passages--even if they aren’t fully committed to memory. What has become evident during this crisis is the need to have the comfort of Scripture in your life.
When you experience difficult days, you need to be able to rely on God’s word, and if it’s already hidden in your heart, it makes it that much easier.
As I work toward make more of an effort to memorize Scripture, I’m starting with Psalm 96:1: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” And, not because it’s short and easy to memorize! It’s because it has a profound meaning for what we are experiencing today.
Throughout the Psalms, we are urged to sing, dance and play instruments as a sign of our worship of the Lord. But, Psalm 96:1 says to sing a “new” song. To sing a new song to the Lord, we need to experience Him in a new way today.
It means being open to God’s leading today, producing new fruit for tomorrow.
His mercies are new every morning, so shouldn’t our song be? Our experiences today, no matter how difficult, should lead us to new revelations of who God is and how He is working.
As we walk through this COVID-19 pandemic, we can trust that God is with us. We can trust that His mercies are new every morning. And, we can have faith that He is using our current circumstances to produce new worship material--a mature walk with the Lord that encourages us to sing a new song.
We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control our response to it. Will we waste our time, or will we prune our lives and cultivate a garden of new growth? Will we quit, or will we sing a new song to Him?
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/jupiterimages
Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @brentrinehart