“We all suffer from time-confusion. We also suffer from significance-confusion. We know our lives are short, yet we all find this hard to actually believe. We intrinsically know that our lives are significant, yet sinful pride causes us to want to measure our significance, not by God’s gracious endowment, but by other people’s admiration. We are significant creatures, but we want to be significant gods.” -JON BLOOM
In reading Psalm 90 this morning, I was struck by a verse I’ve read a hundred times before, but in a new way:
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (v12)
How do we honor God, our families, and ourselves during this weird time?
Some of us run to projects while others run to Netflix. Some of us are silver-lining folks while others are prone to despair. I don’t think this verse comes with any footnote exceptions about pandemics or difficult times… so we actually are supposed to think on how we spend our time. Moreover, we are to actually gain a wiser heart by recognizing our days are numbered and each one has purpose and meaning.
Now, I read yesterday some well-meaning ladies who were upset at this idea. They are tired of the “quarantine Olympics” being played out all over their social media. In other words, they don’t want to see your basement mask factory or the three dozen cookies you baked for the neighborhood. I cringed because the criticism hits at the heart of that age-old issue: we humans do indeed suffer from significance-confusion.
If someone doing something good ruffles my feathers, that’s probably a heart issue on my part. We don’t like to feel like we are doing it wrong, and we certainly don’t want anything messing with our little sins we so easily justify. This is a bit tongue in cheek, but I think of the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth and imagine they all are having a bit of a heyday in many a quarantined home right now.
So when a Christian says things like “make use of this time, find meaning in each day…” it’s most likely not to make someone feel bad or less-than, it’s because they are drawing from an entirely different well than their worldly neighbor. You see, the neighbor finds her worth in who she is on the outside, and all that has been temporarily stripped away. She’s focused on when things open back up again… this is just an annoying holding-pattern to be endured. There’s a lot of justification floating around for why we are free to be angry slobs right now, and a million social media memes to support it. I’m not totally humorless in all this, I’ve sent my share of snarky memes… but we can’t keep feeding on this junk and expect to feel anything but lethargic and bitter.
Yes, these are unprecedented and difficult times. Yes, we all have experienced loss, anger, and every imaginable crappy thing. That should never be ignored or pushed aside. Here’s what I tell myself and my kids when we get to that place: it’s ok to camp out there for a bit, but you don’t get to move in.
“The strangest thing happens when you orient ourselves around God: you forget yourself! Your confidence in yourself improves radically. You were made for this. What was the poured concrete of your foundation will, over time, turn into the framing of the walls and the roofing and the finish work? The fact that the phases look different is not a sign of God quitting at one thing and starting another, but a sign that He is continuing to do what He started.” —RACHEL JANKOVIC
Christian, you are not ill-equipped for such a time as this!
Believers are supposed to look different. We are not immune to disaster or disappointment, but I’d like to think we see this trial as more than just an assault on our time and significance.
We grieve the losses, but maybe… just maybe… we do see silver linings. Not because we live in some pie-in-the-sky denial, but because we know this life was never about us, to begin with, and when it comes down to it, our schedules (or lack thereof) do not define us. We are not called to create significance for ourselves.
The question is, now what? What will we focus on? What do we believe?
1 Corinthians 15:58 says: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Being with your family is not in vain. Serving others is not in vain. Quieting yourself before God in new ways is not in vain. Realizing that you are dust… not in vain.
Little things can keep us from finding joy in this time, and little things can drive us straight to the arms of Jesus. Much of it is our choice.
This time, this strange and weird time… will be remembered for years to come. If you have children, they will look back and remember it for better or for worse. The last thing we need is to feel pressure about it all, I don’t want to participate in the quarantine Olympics, I’m not that crafty. If my kids look back and say “well, we leaned on Jesus, that’s for sure,” I’ll be content. And hopefully, we had some good times in the midst of it all.
There’s truth to be found, a joy to be had, and compassion to be dealt out. It’s not a race or a competition to who can become the biggest sinner or saint. Come to the table, just as you are, and feast. Feast on the Word, on Jesus, and on all, He has done for us. We don’t need to be obsessive or burdened about how we spend the time… maybe just ask Him what He has for us right here, right now.