The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all of us to go through something challenging. The situation can also prompt a practical, spiritual, emotional or mental reset in our lives – one that refocuses us to the point that we make permanent, positive change.
The Nubian Ibex has the amazing ability to scale rock faces that are almost vertical to the ground in its desperate quest for salt. It has learned to navigate a great challenge and is undeterred by difficulties faced along the way. Somehow it will make it through the obstacle.
Perhaps we can be like the Nubian Ibex.
The COVID-19 crisis will subside at some point and we will emerge into a different world. How will we position ourselves for this next season of our lives? Changes to definitions of work, budgets, and policies have already been contemplated and introduced by countries, politicians, businesses, and societies – and there will be changes made by individuals, not just in how they will buy their groceries, but at a deeper level. Consider our personal values, our priorities, our families, where will we place our trust, our pace of life, our destinies? This present crisis can prompt such a reflection.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo laments that he wished the ring had not come to him and that none of this had happened. In response, Gandalf wisely says: “So do all who live and see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we get to decide is what to do with the time given to us.”
What to do with the time given to us… We can make some adjustments. Have we considered how we will use our time, not just during the pandemic, but in our lifetime?
As if he were taking Gandalf’s advice, a young 24-year-old Cambridge University student named Isaac Newton returned to his countryside home, Woolsthorpe Manor, after his university closed for safety reasons during the bubonic plague of 1665-1666. During his self-isolation, and now free from the duties of normal life, he set his mind to work in the most extraordinary manner. He says of this time period: “For in those days I was in the prime of my age for invention, and minded Mathematics and Philosophy more than any time since.” These years became known as his Annus Mirabilis, or Year of Wonders. In those months, Newton had the time and space to develop his theories of calculus, optics and the laws of motion and gravity. Newton decided to make productive use of the time given to him during his self-isolation.
We are seeing videos and reading stories about what other people are doing with the times they live in – some people are being creative and solving challenges that have emerged in society (think innovative mask-making, delivering groceries to seniors, creatively showing appreciation, helping frontline workers), and other efforts are meant to just make us laugh or entertain us. New routines, attitudes, and habits are making their way into our lives. Social distancing and self-isolating are now part of our normal conversation, as is estimating a 2-metre distance.
Many have gone through something very hard and are grieving loss (income, savings, death of loved ones, sickness, family adjustments, travel restrictions, change in plans, separation). We grieve with them. Many of us are just beginning to contemplate, but not yet able to grasp, the magnitude of the changes that are coming to our world. When you do an internet search, much of what you read will have to do with economies, businesses, communities, technology, geo-political shifts, healthcare, working life, education – and even how all of this came to be.
A recent Angus Reid poll showed that 45% of Canadians are looking forward to hugging family or friends when we ‘get back to normal’. However, most observers are saying we will never get back to normal, but we will move into a ‘new normal’.
What will the ‘new normal’ look like? It will likely be different depending upon your vantage point. Governments, workplaces, communities, shopping, air travel, social gatherings, technology – they will all play a part in shaping what life will be like for us down the road.
What about considering a different type of reset? Perhaps one that happens at a deeper individual level. Perhaps a reset that is done internally as opposed to one that is imposed externally. We can redeem the time now by engaging in meaningful reflection that will manifest as change in our lives tomorrow. This redeeming of the time, if we let it run its full course, can profoundly affect – in a positive way – our destinies.
About 40 years ago, I spent three months volunteering in two different refugee camps for people fleeing the killing fields of Cambodia. One camp housed 110,000 from the people group that was targeted for killing. The other camp housed about 30,000 from the people group that actually carried out the killings. When I returned to Canada, I recall crying at the end of a grocery store aisle as I surveyed row upon row of salad dressing choices – this after talking with many refugees who had collected bugs from the ground to feed to their children so they could survive during the Cambodian genocide. I had seen something and I let it change me. I was never the same. My values and priorities shifted for a lifetime.
Whenever I have gone through a significant life event, I have often thought about whether I will come out of it like a piece of chewed-up gum or like an elastic. Perhaps a strange thing to think about, but after the tension has been applied and then subsides, the chewed-up gum stays in its stretched position while the elastic reverts to its original position. Life should mature me and move me forward. I should stay in a new ‘stretched’ state and not return to my original condition.
Has this COVID-19 event started to shift anything deep within you? If so, will you stay stretched or revert back to normal? Consider looking at these areas…
Pace of Life. Many report they have enjoyed slowing down. More walks, more nature, more freed up daily schedules, less rushing to get somewhere on time, less rat race, less expectations (maybe). Time to reflect. Time to get perspective. Time to make some changes. Time for better physical and mental health. After this dies down, think hard before accelerating back up to your original speed. Don’t be an elastic here.
‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Psalm 46:10
Family Life. I hope that you have valued being together more than you did before. We don’t need to be living in overdrive. We can embrace a greater simplicity of life. We do not always have to achieve something. We can make family memories and cement our family unity. Family needs to move up a few notches in the batting order. Be stretched gum here.
Priorities and Values. How will I spend my time? What will be most important in my life? It has been said there are three important questions to answer as you set course in life: Whose am I? Who am I? To what or whom will I be attached to? Time, money, people, values, vision, health, family, calling, etc. Shuffle your deck here.
‘How much better to get wisdom than gold.’ Proverbs 16:16
Redeem the time – not just fill it. Purpose to use my self-isolation time wisely and look for a clearer vision of how I will spend my life. I cannot relive my wasted moments. God has a destiny for me. Take time now for reflection and deeper thoughts. Read some books, talk with family members, see things from God’s perspective, ask yourself what needs to change. Again, be stretched gum.
‘Seek first the Kingdom of God.’ Matthew 6:33
Consider your years. Master’s Academy & College continues to pursue its vision of transforming education. The school prepares its students to be Future Ready, which involves who they are becoming as individuals. We teach them to consider God’s place in their life – about godly character, to embrace the deeper questions of life, engage with their world, and be part of designing its future. Our heart for them as they do this is to hope in God and to experience Jesus’ love, forgiveness and destiny in their lives.
In 1996, Linda Ellis wrote a poem entitled The Dash that has challenged millions of people to reconsider how they live their lives. In the poem, she says lives are often summarized by a birth date, a dash, and then a death date. But the most important part of this is the dash – the part in the middle that was lived out by that person and remembered by others. How will we live out our dash? What will be said about us at the end?
Consider living life with God. We are seeing that we don’t control everything. What we trusted in can be lost. Perhaps through these months we can come to see that God is real, is personal, is good, can be trusted, cares about the details of our lives, and can give us genuine joy, hope and wisdom as we live life. We can go to Him with our questions and our hurts. We can see that He is for us, and desires to restore our relationship with Him. He has given hundreds of wonderful promises to us in the Bible. Here are only a few…
2 Timothy 1:7 – we don’t need to live in fear.
Isaiah 41:10 – don’t be afraid – I will strengthen you.
John 14:27 – I will give you peace.
Philippians 4:6-8 – don’t be anxious – instead, pray and ask Him for help.
Deuteronomy 31:6 – be courageous – He will not leave us.
Psalm 145:18 – He is near to us.
Jeremiah 31:3 – He loves us.
Psalm 34:8 – He is good.
Jeremiah 29:11 – He gives us a hope.
Psalm 57:1 – there is shelter in the shadow of His wings.
Psalm 139:17-18 – He thinks about us individually more times each day than the grains of sand.
Similar to the Nubian Ibex, Isaac Newton, and Gandalf, we can overcome this tough situation, we can accomplish meaningful things, and we can use our time wisely. This crisis can prompt us to re-align our private world. I like how the Bible puts it…
Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God and you’ll be changed from the inside out.
– Romans 12:2
In these days, what is the reset to which God is calling you?