The last six months have not been easy. I could do a recap of all the things, but let’s be honest: we know it all already. We’ve lived it. 2020 has been brutal.
And what is really hard?
We’re not done.
This reality seemed to hit people hard the last couple weeks. As the cool fall weather has settled in, we have realized that we are on our way back indoors a lot more, and that there is a long winter ahead of us.
With heavy hearts a lot of us are asking: How are we going to cope with the months, maybe even years, of this to come?
It’s an important question, one we’ve all been trying to answer for the last six months. How do we LIVE during covid? How do we live when our lives completely change? What do we do with this covid-time?
As I look at the last few months, I’ve noticed a few patterns:
Wait Out the Time
This is a common response when time can’t be used the way we want. We wait out the plane ride, the hospital visit, the cancer treatments. And, logically, a lot of us have been waiting out covid.
“When it’s done,” we say, “THEN we can get back to living! THEN life will happen! AFTER covid is over we’ll get back to our normal!“
We hear it in the common covid mantra: “After a vaccine!”
“I’ll connect with people again – after there’s a vaccine!”
“Life will be normal – after there’s a vaccine!”
“I’ll feel like myself again – after there’s a vaccine!”
The issue with this response to covid-time is that your life isn’t on hold “until there’s a vaccine.” Yes, there are many things you should not and cannot do until a tide has turned, but your life has not stopped. Your life is happening right now. Life won’t return after covid – life is still going, even though it looks different than it used to. And when we simply press the “pause” button on living the life in front of us, there’s a lot of life we are going to miss.
Replace the Time
A second way to respond is to replace our old activities with new ones. We can’t do one thing, so we’ll do another. Can’t do some of our favourite hobbies? We’ll paint the house! Can’t sign up for sports? We’ll renovate the kitchen! We can’t do things we usually do, but we can still get stuff done!!!
There’s nothing wrong with using changed routines to explore new opportunities, but the issue with striving to “replace” our pre-covid activities with new “covid friendly” tasks is that our life still comes down to a to-do list. We simply shift from one kind of busyness to another, one pressure to achieve to another, one kind of guilt to another. We are still finding our life value in what we accomplish. In these last few months, I’ve seen this a lot. We judge ourselves for not having “accomplished” much in covid. We become weighed down with a pressure to achieve, and time becomes a burden to carry instead of a gift to receive.
Curse the Time
Because this time is so hard, we simply curse it. “Nothing good can come of this!” we declare. “This time sucks!” we all agree. “It’s ruined everything!” we proclaim. So – curse it! Forget it! Throw it aside!
There are lots of days I am stuck in this response, because I really hate what covid has done to my life, and it feels good to just say “Forget it all! I’m watching Netflix until a vaccine comes.”
I get these responses. I’ve had every one of them. But as we go into this next season, knowing covid is lingering on, I ask myself: Is there another, better option to how we receive the covid-time to come? One that doesn’t involve waiting the time away, or exhausting ourselves to fill it, or bitterly raging against it? I think there is.
I invite us to seek to redeem the time.
This idea is found in the Bible (Ephesians 5:16), in a direction written 2000 years ago to God’s people trying to live as light in dark times. A more modern translation says to “make the most of every opportunity.”
Redeeming the time looks different than waiting time out, replacing our activities or cursing the time before us. Redeeming the time looks like saying “How can this time be made GOOD in our lives?” That’s different than getting more done. It’s when we say: “What can I learn in this time? How can this time shape me? How can I let God work in this time so that it will have value?”
It’s when we accept that this time may not look the way we want, but it can be a meaningful and valuable part of our story. That different time isn’t wasted time. That difficult time isn’t time without importance.
The word used for redeem in that verse I mentioned is one that was used at the time to refer to buying something up when the opportunity came. It might be used when one went to the market and found just the thing they were looking for and quickly “bought it” – they redeemed it. You could use it when someone saw a great price on an item and quickly “redeemed it” – they took the opportunity to buy it.
What does that mean for us if we want to “redeem the time” we are in right now?
I think it means that we “buy it up.” We take the opportunities this time gives us. We don’t just wait – we live. We don’t just replace – we receive. We don’t just curse – we look for reasons to be grateful.
Listen, I’m not looking forward to the fall and winter anymore than any of you are. The thought of school shutting down again could literally make me break out in hives. I’ve already been pricing out backyard heaters with the hopes that maybe I can still do porch visits if there’s a way we can stay warm. I pray, daily, for a vaccine.
AND I am asking God for redemption. I ask that God would not let this hard, didn’t-want-it, wish-it-was-over time be wasted in my life. I ask for grace to make the most of every opportunity, trusting that the great Redeemer can even redeem the time of covid.
May this be our prayer, for covid, and all the time God gives us.