As I’ve contemplated what exactly has made these last 16 months difficult, one of the things that rises to the top is our loss of autonomy. As Canadians, most of us have never in our lifetimes had so little freedom to choose for ourselves. At times I’ve bristled against this reality, and at other times, I’ve felt the rules to be like protective fences within which I could move safely. In the days ahead, there will be gates cut into those fences and we will be given the freedom to live in community again, but we aren’t ‘returning to normal’ because our world has changed—we have changed.
The World Has Become a Scarier Place
Some of our most senior friends have lived through restrictive times like these before. When they did, the enemy was a political ideology with a military regime that was bent on seeing that ideology come to fruition. The enemy was visible and so was its defeat. When the ‘gates’ opened at the end of the war, they knew they were safe.
Our ‘enemy’ is invisible. Perhaps you, like me, looked at your groceries with suspicion as they sat on your kitchen floor, wondering if the enemy was lurking in bags that you yourself had carried into your home. We have been fighting an enemy we can’t see, and most of us have known someone who lost the fight to this foe. So we know it’s real and dangerous, and we have no idea when it will rear its ugly head again. Not only has it killed through illness, but the fallout of prolonged difficulty and isolation has broken people financially and emotionally, even to the point of suicide. This can’t help but change us.
Not Everyone Has Responded with the Same Measure of Caution
Added to the strain of an invisible killer is the reality that we live among people who have responded differently. Regardless of where you land on the ‘response continuum,’ there are those around you who have felt less constrained than you do and therefore have taken and will continue to take less cautious steps to ward off our unseen enemy. This will inevitably create feelings of vulnerability. Some people will feel ‘scary’ and we won’t easily convince ourselves that those fears are irrational.
There are many factors that will influence our sense of risk.
- Physiological vulnerability due to a compromised immune system.
- Personal interactions with the elderly or others who are more vulnerable.
- Past experiences of physical suffering.
- Confidence or lack thereof in the process of the development of the vaccines.
- Confidence or lack thereof in the integrity and wisdom of those who are leading us in the fight.
Some of Us Have Found Peace in a Simpler Slower Life
There is another complicating factor in this time of transition that I did not see coming. The government-imposed restrictions have afforded me a quieter pace of life. I have had more time for personal reflection, to grow intimacy with God, to read good books, and to manage my personal life more effectively.
There are some ways in which isolation has been good for me. Ways that I value so much, that I am feeling some hesitancy about giving them up. The idea of returning to my overly busy lifestyle makes me feel a bit anxious.
How Are We to Move Forward?
The key to navigating this season of our lives is context. How well do we know the God who turns the hearts of kings (Prov 21:1), and has the power to kill and make alive, to wound and to heal (Deut 32:39)? Do we know, like David, that our times are in His hands (Ps 31:15)?
Can we rest in the truth that every one of our days were written in God’s book before our lives began (Ps 139:16)?
Do we know Him, as Hagar came to know Him, as the God who sees us (Gen 16:13)?
Do we, the burdened, hear Jesus’ call to come to His rest as we share His yoke, believing Him to be all He says He is (Matt 11:28-30)?
God is our context; for those who grow to know this with confidence, the way forward will also grow clear one day at a time—maybe even one choice at a time; not because some earthly powers tell us what is okay, but because we follow the Good Shepherd and He says we know His voice (John 10:4).
Where Can You Begin?
Follow the lead of the psalmists and tell God where your heart is at today. The Bible is overflowing with stories of people who took their weariness, sorrows, anxieties, and uncertainties to God. He sees you and His heart is for you. Along with honesty with God, find others you can share with as well. We are not meant to make this journey alone.
Let faith, not fear, fuel your decisions—faith in a loving, omniscient, all-wise Shepherd God knowing that for some, faith in God’s wisdom may mean stepping through those ‘gates’ in increments. That’s okay.
Perhaps, like me, you are asking the Lord how much of all of that previous busyness should be added back. If God desires to use enforced isolation to cause you to press reset on your lifestyle, don’t miss it. Normal is not always good!
Above all, serve others in love. When Judas had departed from the upper room (this timing is sobering) Jesus told His disciples that they (and we) would be known by the way in which we love each other.
Following the example of Jesus, who moved toward us at great cost, move toward each other. There has been judgment and criticism spoken and felt in God’s family. In humility, seek to understand your brothers and sisters in Christ. See the experience of a global pandemic through their eyes and hearts. Demonstrate compassion. Avoid fighting with others over your post-pandemic opinions. Instead, listen well, share your heart with others and seek the Lord for guidance into a post-pandemic life that magnifies His beauty to a broken and needy world.