Originally published Sunday, 19 April 2020.
Right now my family and I might have been reclining on a beach in Mexico with extended family, reconnecting in the sun and surf after too many months apart. Instead, a chill Oregon drizzle drips from my windows and I haven’t left my house in days. I have to check the calendar to figure out what day of the week it is, and I have no plans beyond what I’m fixing for dinner tonight. Next week looks to be the same. And the next. And likely the next. I am living only the moments in front of me.
Nearly everyone in this country harbors a list of disappointments brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. I have my own, but I know they pale compared to many people’s: graduation ceremonies and championship sporting events cancelled, long-planned weddings postponed, jobs lost, bills unpaid, so many plans unfulfilled. We were all going along, doing our normal human thing: working hard, striving, doing, planning, executing, when all of a sudden we were halted in our exhausted tracks and told we must let it all go, and so we are grieving our own losses.
Then we watch the news and see the devastation of the disease and the fear and the pain rippling around the world, and our hearts are heavy for others. God understands it all. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” This describes many of us right now, and we can share it with Him.
Thankfully our gracious God never just takes away, leaving us empty-handed and hopeless. Rather, He is always faithful to allow glimmers of light, traces of goodness, and beauty, that we can cling to in our suffering and disappointments. For most of us during this pandemic and resulting quarantine, many good things have been stripped away, and in exchange, what have we been left with? We have suddenly been given the one thing we constantly long for: time. I have gone from juggling seven overly-full schedules to suddenly having nothing, NOTHING on the calendar for the foreseeable future. I can scorn it or I can humbly accept the gift.
Is it possible that God is slowing me down, using the medium of time, to reorient me to Himself? Will I bend to His will and let Him reorder my loves, restore my joy, and remind me of what is most important? I would never choose sickness and death. I would never choose disruption and disappointment. The gift of time comes at a high price, and I don’t take that for granted.
But the blessing does not escape me either. This week I watched my kids’ magic and origami-puppet show (complete with intermission acts) and did not feel like I should be doing something else. It was a novel sensation. On a Thursday afternoon, my son and I made homemade milkshakes for the family, even dipping the rims of the cups in melted chocolate and sprinkles because, why not? We have nothing but time. Every evening after dinner (which we are suddenly eating together every night), we are heading out to stroll around our farm, petting animals, running through pastures, pairing off to laugh and talk, and I’ve found myself asking, why have we never before done this? I’m experiencing everyday delights that everyday life does not always allow for. What a gift.
From the very beginning of this situation’s unfolding, Psalm 19:21 has been running through my mind: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
My plans have indeed been foiled and while I would never attempt to figure out what the Lord’s greater purpose in the world might be, I do sense in my own life. He is stripping things away, slowing me down, and increasing my dependence on Him. I am reminded of the Israelites in Exodus who did not make plans at all, but instead looked to God every single day, both for manna from heaven and for the cloud to either lift and direct their movements or telling them to remain in place. They were completely dependent on Him and He supplied all their needs. Did this free them to more fully live the moments right in front of them and enjoy God’s good gifts without the distraction of worrying about tomorrow? I wonder.
In my little corner of the world we have been directed to remain in place indefinitely. We are not making any plans; we are just waiting. Almost every day, something that we had looked forward to or worked hard for is newly cancelled. Two sparkly ballet-recital dresses hanging in my daughters’ closets will remain unworn. We watch the news and worry for our neighbors. We are sad. But God is near to us even now, and He is lavishing the gift of time upon us, that we might live fully in the moment, using it to draw near to Himself and to each other.
Kara is the wife of 20+ years to Caleb and the mother of 5, including 2 through the miracle of adoption. She and her family live on 8 acres, raising cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys, as well as a large garden. She is passionate about hospitality, mothering, the intersection of farm-life and faith, and finding beauty in the commonplace. She enjoys her classics bookclub, walking her country road, and traveling with her large family. She occasionally blogs at goodgiftsfarm.com, but you can keep up with her more regularly on Instagram @good_gifts_farm.