During the first days of lockdown I was convicted that I have a problem of wasting time.
It’s been a long while problem – I can sit down for hours in the same spot, browsing aimlessly on social media only to regret it after, that I could have (and should have) done something productive with my time. With the lock down in motion, and I am home most of the time, I have caught myself sitting with my kids “playing”, but really be looking on my phone reading an article that is worthless for my wellbeing.
While some may not have a problem with that, I do. I feel guilty that I’d rather be documenting cute moments more than being in the moment (cliche, but so true). I also felt conviction that despite being restricted to meet other people, and as a Christian, we are still called to love one another and show this love by being hospitable to one another.
Certainly being engrossed nose deep in social media, like reading terrible Facebook comment arguments is not loving and productive so here are my reflections of the past 4 weeks of lockdown
Put it away
The best remedy for my problem with my phone is to simply put it away and ‘lose’ it. I’ve set myself times during the day to look at my phone so I don’t miss messages/ calls from people – 1pm and 8pm are the times I’ve chosen because the kids have their afternoon nap at 1pm and by 8pm we would have finished our chores for the night. Sometimes I cheat by putting my phone on Chromecast Spotify so I can glance over my phone if I need to skip “next” on the songs. While this has been hard and not often consistent during the day, having this goal and personal expectation has helped a lot! Because of this, my mind have been on other things and somewhat more ‘free’ than before. I have been able to ponder about things, meditate of what I have been reading, think about people in the church, pray for them, think of other people that I haven’t talk to in a while. I have also been productive physically around the house and am able to give our kids undivided attention, eye contact and physical affection. This has opened doors for my imagination when interacting with them, and spring up some cute conversations with Amelia during play time. Of course, some days it’s a total mess – but the more I have put intentionality to my day and expect to go “Screen saving” mode, the more fruitful and productive I feel. I can only hope that this will carry on well into the future and this will open space and opportunities for our kids to talk to us about anything and everything. Even the hard topics!
Be Hospitable in the Crisis
Showing hospitality isn’t bound to the physical gathering of you and other people. It’s much more than that! It’s showing love to the other person earnestly (1 Peter 4:8-9), it’s looking after one another’s needs (Romans 12:13), it express your selflessness and servanthood (1 Timothy 5:10), and even loving and calling those who are not close to you (Hebrews 13:2). God’s word, commands, teachings, and His power isn’t confined to circumstances and it certainly not affected by a virus He has let into the world. The lockdown doesn’t give us a free pass to park our Christian duties and come back to it when it’s all over either – we just have to do things differently! We are fortunate that we live in a time with robust WiFi and programmes that allows us to call or video call at a press of a button to stay connected. Call, text, DM, Video Call your friends and family daily. Christians, offer to read the bible with someone once a week, (or maybe more if you’re feeling up to it) just like we are commanded in Titus 2. Don’t neglect the meeting of the saints but be present during care groups and church, even if it’s done virtually.
This lockdown I was resolved to text/ call at least one person a day from our church. I have been encouraged to know what is going on in their lives and I got to know them personally even more than before. I was able to talk to people in my age group, younger, and older. Some conversation lasted a few minutes, some lasted 2 hours. Some text went back and forth for days with long threads, others only seemed like a polite greeting. Either way, I have felt encouraged to know that I have friends that I can call family whom I can share life with, and I am encouraged that they have also feel more-or-less the same!
With some ladies, I offered to read the bible with them. If you’re in the position to do this – go for it! By position, I mean comfortable with reading the bible for yourself. You don’t have to be a theologian, you don’t have to be married to one either. You don’t have to know a smidge of Greek and Hebrew or church history. You just need to pray and ask God that the Holy Spirit be present in your conversations and to interpret the scripture for you. With 4 different ladies, we have chosen a book of the Bible to go through and read around 8 to 10 verses at a time. We read it once, then go verse by verse discussing what we think it meant from the text itself (For example: Romans 1:1 we would say that Paul was the author and he served Jesus Christ. He had authority because he was an apostle, and his vocation is to tell people about the gospel of God). This takes off pressure on me who ‘leads’ by not spending 2 hours pre-reading and preparing for a bible study; it takes off the person I am reading with, being intimidated with all the ‘fluff’ that goes beyond the text (interesting and maybe helpful in some cases, but not necessary); it focuses on us both strictly on what the text is saying and that is the goal! The more casual, the better. It opens opportunities to talk about how the text has affected us personally, which will grow your friendship.
Why not go the extra step and take the day to pray for the person that you have talked? It doesn’t have to be constant, but whenever the Holy Spirit may prompt you to pray as you remember them and your conversation with them. I have found this both encouraging yet challenging. Encouraging since I feel closer in friendship with the person, but challenging as I begin to realise how much unnecessary thoughts that can distract me from praying constantly during the day, and how easy for me to slide it into the “maybe later” thought box. Like most mums/women, everyday there is a long list of ‘to do’s’ to achieve. It’s easy for me to think about the exact steps of how I’m going to tackle my pre-cooking dishes, cooking and post-cooking dishes to the most effective time, water and energy saving, than it is to spend a few moments praying to God. You don’t have to prepare a “quiet space” and spend an hour everytime you are prompted to pray, just pray as the Holy Spirit leads you that moment. Perhaps this is what it means when Paul instructs us to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Having a quiet devotional time through bible reading and praying is essential, but don’t be discouraged when time may not allow. Cling to Him, go to Him, pray throughout and always. Your relationship with God isn’t a 15min- 1 hour time slot during the day.
Productive Procrastinating, Idleness, Resting
Time management has been my biggest downfall. Hanli often jokes that the house is cleanest when I have a pressing matter that needs to be done, but I refuse to do it! I’m sure all of you have experienced productive procrastinating. It’s a good point to remember that although your house, car, wardrobe, drawer, bathroom, kitchen, etc. might be spotless, productive procrastinating is still procrastinating! If communing with God is our priority, and if Jesus is our be-all-end-all in our lives, getting to know Him should be the pressing matter. Sadly, I can’t say that I have dropped or sacrifice my time to be with God under His Word and in prayer, and I’m sure I will struggle in some way or another until the rest of my life with this, but I want and need to change! How can I be the light to the world, or pray for others or be hospitable if I am not holding fast to His Word and clinging to Him by going to Him for everything in prayer?
I also struggle with the concept of ‘rest’.
What is rest?
Something that mothers don’t have.
Resting is an active decision to stop working. When I think of the idea of resting in the Lord, I think of stopping my normal routines, chores, and other tracks for myself and either stopping or doing it and delighting in Him. It can mean publicly worshipping Him at church, communing with Him in my own personal time, going to Him when I’m feeling anxious, muddled in thoughts, when I am at my wits end with my children, or setting aside a day to enjoy the gifts that He has given me in life to simply give thanks to Him. Resting in God should happen daily and continually. More often I am guilty of being idle instead of resting – an equivalent of sitting down and twiddling my thumbs. Not useful, fruitful, or beneficial to anyone! I am reminded that although it’s good to have a rest and enjoy life and your own interests, there’s a huge difference between being idle and resting. I resolve to make my rests more intentional and do less idling and more resting during my days.
I love Jacinda Ardern’s emphasis during the lockdown: be kind. Little does she know that the Lord has commanded us to be kind from the dawn of time, because He is kind. In amidst all the chaos, I am appalled to see such shocking posts and comments. It’s a good reminder that God is Sovereign. He is in control. We don’t have ultimate human freedom anyways, so having it be taken from us for a brief moment in life won’t cost us much but our convenience. There’s no ulterior motives of COVID-19, especially not vaccine related. We are still called to love each other and at this time, this means staying home, be enclosed in our bubbles and do the work God sets out for us from our home. We are also called to submit to our leaders, since, ultimately, God was the one who appointed them. Bringing them down, rebelling against the authorities is not loving and it certainly doesn’t glorify God.
Again, I am thankful that I have had the privilege to meet together with other believers since the first day I went to church. Many in the world have never experienced this, simply because their circumstances doesn’t allow them to.
“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together (1939)
I am thankful that we have high tech systems and programs put in place that allows me to ‘attend’ church with a click of a button. Many people and churches around the world don’t have this privilege. Brothers and sisters in Christ, while we are in this season, let us think and prioritise our mission here on earth and that is to love God, love others and make Him known to the world.