For most of the year, I thought of 2020 as “The Year That God Hit Pause.” As the year closes, I am thinking “The Year That God Hit Reboot” is more appropriate. And I don’t mean one of those lame “control-alt-delete” reboots, either. I mean the last resort- close the programs, unplug the computer, disconnect the modem, and pray for Divine intervention kind of reboots.
For much of 2020, most folks stopped living their normal lives. We kept thinking that we would just wait for “all this to end” and then try to catch up on real life. I remember very clearly that the pandemic restrictions started as a two-week stay-at-home order. We truly believed that, after two weeks of solitude, the world would have the tools it needed to halt the virus in its tracks. When that turned out to be wildly optimistic, we kept cutting off the dog’s tail by inches. Maybe by extending the world standstill for a few weeks, we could bring things “back to normal.” Maybe by having everyone work from home, we could stem the infection. Maybe if we wore masks and stayed at least six feet away from each other, we could find the light at the end of the tunnel. This prolonged period of adaptation had various effects on people, the culture, the economy, and on political thought.
People responded to the continuing pandemic in different ways. Some folks are still staying safely tucked away in the “waiting for things to get back to normal” bubble. They continue to pause their normal expectations of their lives. Other people, at varying paces, started strategizing safer ways to get back to some semblance of normal life. There are benefits in doing so, certainly. It feels good to not feel so stuck. It feels good to be helpful to others. It feels good to rebuild community.
Sometimes life seems even weirder when you try to live a relatively normal life within the parameters of pandemic restrictions than when you stay cocooned away from most normal activity. It is hard to communicate with a mask on. It is awkward to flash a peace sign to fellow congregants when you are used to a handshake or hug during the church service passing of the peace. Using virtual technology to meet with others is wonderful, but it does emphasize that life is clearly not normal.
It is at least hopeful that many of us have started fresh. Everything is not working quite as well as we would like, but we can at least move forward with living, albeit at a more labored pace. That labored pace results not just from exerting energy to figure out how to do things, but also from figuring out whether to do them at all.
I think many people are remembering how precious our time and energy is. When rethinking how to get on with our lives, it becomes much clearer to us that we truly may not have the ability to do everything we are used to doing with the enthusiasm and drive we would like. During our enforced slowdown and period of separation, most of us are examining our priorities and our passions. As the world starts to pick up speed again, we are not sure we want to. I have several friends who remark that they have sort of enjoyed the quiet and slower pace that the pandemic shutdowns caused in their lives. It gave them time to breathe and think and pray. They are finding it a bit difficult to jump back into all the activities they used to think they enjoyed before the pandemic. Did they really enjoy them at all? Or did they enjoy the activities, but not the frantic unstoppable whirl of energy propelling them from one activity to another? They are making deliberate choices about what activities they choose to reintroduce into their lives.
I think that is one of the upsides of the pandemic. We had the time to appreciate the fullness of our lives and to consider how we wanted to reinvent some aspects of those lives. Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, different is better. Sometimes, in thinking about the content of our daily lives, we realize that the activities with which we are filling those lives are not supporting our core values. If that is the case, now is a good time to think about changing or reapportioning those activities in the future.
The pandemic also gave us the time to consider from where our strength, activity, and values come. Sometimes, in the busy-ness of life, it can feel like I am moving as fast as I can and juggling plates on sticks until they come crashing down around me. It is like I always know I am headed towards disaster, but I can’t stop spinning and adjusting and controlling and moving. During the pandemic, I stopped moving for a time. I realized that I was never the one jumping, moving, and spinning. I was never the one keeping the plates from crashing. It was always God. I was just getting in His way.
As for me, I will never feel content, productive, able, or peaceful if I rely on my own energy to accomplish the things I want to do. I must rely on God to show me what to do and to give me the tools to do it.
So, as we close our programs from 2020, unplug our computer, disconnect our modem, and pray for Divine intervention, we can rely on God to respond to that prayer and reboot our souls. May He bless us all with wisdom, grace, peace, joy, and industry in the coming year.
How have your priorities changed in the wake of the global pandemic? Are there activities with which you have chosen not to re-engage? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a contemplative day!