Before last March, sheltering in place was something we did as meteorologists warned us that unstable air was headed our way which could result in a tornado.
Today’s version of sheltering in place has become an extended affair as weeks of it have become months. Spending isolated time remains a key strategy to remain safe as microbes infect the air we breathe and the touchpads we key into.
But this isn’t without psychological cost. We all lament new shapelessness in our lives. Our diurnal rhythms–workday into weekend, alone time into family time and social time—are no longer as before. Peter Marty writes, “Sharp distinctions between work hours and downtime aren’t so sharp anymore. The blue light from extended screen time is throwing off our biological clocks and sleep schedule. Even caring about the day’s weather, and what we should wear in light of it, hardly matters to our indoor lives.” Do your days at all resemble this description?
Idleness and its sluggishness are part and parcel of the strange new normal of this pandemic. Did you hear about the guy who exclaimed, “I am starting to get a tan from the fridge light!” Or did you see the New Yorker cartoon depicting a man fixed to his recliner as his wife talks nearby on the phone? “We are making progress,” she informs her friend. “He set off the motion detector this morning.”
Yesterday I spoke with one of our most literate church members. She confessed something I have also experienced. The disruption of familiar rhythms has also made it harder to read. I love to read and always seek more time to read. But for some reason this season has made it more difficult to get to it and stay with it.
This Sunday I will make a case for pushing through to the other side of idleness, sluggishness, loneliness, and boredom to discover something deeply surprising. What if the frenetic distracted busyness of rushing to and fro before the virus was the wrong backdrop for life? What if this new backdrop of quiet reflectiveness is a better default setting for our life and routine to live more satisfying spiritual lives? What if we’re not only producers and consumers, but spiritual beings at our core?
In the inward divine spiritual economy, we naturally seek a right balance between doing and being. Just imagine the vacation day you spend seeing all of the sights and jumping from place to place. In that moment you want nothing so much as a pause to sit, gaze at the mountains or the ocean, and talk softly, sipping a drink. But of course, if all we do is sit around on vacation, everyone looks at each other and says, let’s get out there! What do we all want to do? Let’s structure our plan.
Am I alone in thinking that before COVID19 we were overbalanced toward busy acts of doing and the gifts of solitude were underrepresented? And I’m betting a sermon that this is a chance to find a new and better connectedness in our living.
These Coronavirus days give us the opportunity for this much-needed correction.