Personality profile one: Professional procrastinator. Serial sidetracker. Disastrously distracted.
Personality profile two: Focused, intense, constantly on-the-go, passionate and single minded.
When it comes to putting my mind to the task of the moment, the duties of the day, I could easily fall into either category. Diligent and determined on the one hand; restless and distracted on the other. For me, it has less to do with my mood, or even the kind of day I’m having, but more so on the job that is required of me at the time. Planning and enjoying family trips, studying, meeting with friends and baking with the kids and I’m textbook number two profile. Any kind of life admin, cleaning, paying bills or doing the food shop and I will find anything else to do.
The problem is, the task looms over me because like it or not, they are ways God requires me to spend some of my time. The more I put them off, the more my heart becomes restless and discontent. When I choose to pick up a book instead of the car keys to go to the supermarket (or vice versa), I actually rob myself of the joy of the moment. My mind is racing with the other thing I really should be doing. Distracted mind leads to distracted heart.
Lockdown brought with it a change of routine and tasks for everyone. Usual activities and programmes at church, the way we fill our time in the week, has all been dramatically overturned.
Maybe new responsibilities replaced old ones for you: bible study leading with home schooling; youth group with house chores. Maybe there wasn’t replacement, but only loss. Deep loss: time left blank, spaces in homes and hearts painfully empty, silence your companion for the day instead of people.
Maybe a sense of helpfulness became helplessness in the face of so much need yet equal restriction. A sense of accomplishment became snatched moments and feelings of incompletion.Busy days on feet rushing from one place to another became times of desperation on knees in prayer.
What can I do? What is your plan for me? Why do I feel so useless?When will this end?
Those heartbreaking questions, that soul searching as we grieved the loss of church life and family affection, of touch, of words and affirmation, of gifts and acts of service in the ways we were used to. It was in those times, in those questions, in those moment of heart unrest and trouble that God’s grace was working. Bringing us to our knees, feeling the pain of our helplessness, acutely aware of our smallness in the face of such great problems, as we fought and grieved for our old routines and battled against the new tasks required of us.
I battled hard in lockdown. I mourned deeply. I longed for coffee shop moments with friends instead of attending to my children’s home schooling. Too often my battling was against my circumstance of the day. Instead of fighting for my heart’s rest in God in the present situation, I fought for a return to the old life, and in my distraction and longing for old routines, my heart was left uneasy and resentful. The days were often more quiet but my heart was not.
Whether it felt like replacement or loss, or both, God’s grace brought all his children to their knees in lockdown. Now we need his grace to teach our hearts to remember all we learned as we begin to emerge into the new normal. Those times our hearts rocked during the storms of our restlessness, when they grieved for the busyness and roles we once enjoyed, those were times that God’s grace was calling us to cry out to him in prayer.
Stripped of all our secondary resources, all our church activity, we have been called to rely on the one resource we always have, to pray. Prayer is the pouring out of our hearts to God, that he may bring them to quiet and contentment, and teach them to still our distractions and be able to commit to the task of our present situation.
Compared to a month ago, we may have more options now, more decisions to make as to which jobs God is asking us to do for him this day. God’s grace brought many of us to our knees in lockdown. By his grace, let’s start the day there, asking him what he requires of us, as the diary gradually begins to be filled, as we can enjoy spending more time with each other in person, let’s keep our hearts quiet amidst these changing times by setting them to work. As we gradually add in more work and jobs for the day, let’s set our hearts to work too.
Let’s set our hearts to work in honest prayer, in self reflection, aware of those things we’re putting off, of the jobs we’re fighting against doing. Let’s fight against distraction by simply asking our heavenly Father what he will have us to do this day.
Let’s set our hearts to work in praise and worship of who God is.
We can be free to be where we are, committed to the present circumstance, trusting God is everywhere so we don’t have to be, that he carries the burdens of all our pain, that to him alone belongs the power to change, to bring contentment amidst the affliction.
The restrictions may be lifted, the new normal may be faced, but the lessons God taught us on our knees in the school of lockdown suffering can be remembered. God’s grace upholds us from our rising to our resting, in our silence and in our work, on our knees and as we rise to run the race he has marked out for us this day.