Here we are. Again.
Eight months into this pandemic, and we are back on temporary lockdown. Can’t go here, can’t do this, you can do this but with these restrictions, etc, etc, etc. In some ways, 2020 has felt like one big “NO.” It is insane to me how the span of eight months can feel like an eternity. But if we are thinking in terms of actual eternity, eight months is merely the blink of an eye, an almost invisible blip on the radar.
It goes without saying that, for almost everyone, this has been a year of loss. Some have experienced significant loss: the death of a loved one(s), job loss, financial hardship, marital strife or even divorce, or the loss of absolutely every earthly possession they own in the wildfires that ravaged our region. Many others have taken on incredible amounts of stress as they work the front lines of this pandemic (shout out to ALL healthcare workers, law enforcement, firefighters…you’re the real heroes), or try to navigate the challenges of working from home while also trying to homeschool their children (for anyone in this position, you da real MVPs). And almost everyone has taken on the burden of navigating the loss of relationships, connection with others, and the feeling of isolation that comes with having our everyday lives come to a screeching halt.
It can be easy to toss around Scripture during times of stress, loss, and grief. The Scripture below is no exception, but it truly is one of my favorites in the Bible:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)
Stop for just a second. Read that again. What blows my mind is that Jesus desires to trade our heavy burdens for his light one. That He wants to exchange our trash for his treasure…if we would just come to Him. He promises rest. I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a healthy dose of that after this year.
Because of all this, it’s a little comical that I felt like the Lord was prompting me to write this post about things I’ve gained in quarantine. It is so easy for us all to revert to all the things we’ve lost this year…but what about the things we’ve gained? When I look back on 2020, am I going to remember all the hardships and inconveniences? Probably, yes. But even more so, I want it to be burned into my memory the things the Lord has revealed to me this year, both about Himself and about myself. I want to focus on the steps forward that I’ve made and view this year as pivotal in my walk with the Lord, not as a year to be forgotten or written off.
Gain #1: Perspective
- Social media has taken the world by storm, even prior to COVID-19 and even more so after. While it can be used as an incredibly powerful tool to keep us connected to our family, friends and communities, ask yourself: is it draining you? Are you constantly comparing your life to others or dealing with discontentment based on the squares of other people’s so-called “life”? Are you going down rabbit trails and finding yourself wracked with anxiety? Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean abstaining from food and drink. Maybe it’s time to disconnect from the virtual world that we are immersed in and get back to basics. My phone has become an “escape” (dare I say…idol?) during this pandemic and I have been convicted on more than one occasion to set it aside and engage in what is right in front of me rather than what’s on a screen.
- I have felt numerous times over the course of the past eight months that this pandemic is absolutely a tool that God is using to encourage His people to press “pause;” to slow down, to rest, and to lean into Him. Not just lean in, but rely on Him. A MAJOR reset. I have longed so many times in my adult life for things to slow down; to be able to off-load things from my plate, to spend more time at home with my family, to just breathe. Yeah, it’s not always easy working from home full-time with a toddler. I am wracked with mom guilt a lot because she has above-average screen time as I try to juggle several things at once (like everyone else). No, I don’t get a lot of alone time. BUT, I’m home with her. I’m here. And even if I don’t feel present all the time, I get to be the one to be here for everything. And this is time I will never get back.
Gain #2: Self-Awareness
- The ironic thing is, now that life is moving at a much slower pace, I find myself trying to constantly replace (or fill) the slowness. I feel restless, sometimes borderline impulsive. Like I need to disrupt my newfound peace and quiet to feel “productive”. Why? Why can’t I just soak in the peace that I have been craving for so long (and that God has graciously gifted me with)?
- As an introvert and a homebody, my tendency is to isolate myself and to go inward, particularly when I’m struggling with my mental health. To stay in my bubble, safe and unbothered. That’s dangerous, because being in your own head all the time is unhealthy. The Lord recently made it very clear that I need to be more intentional with my intentionality: seek people out, seek out opportunities to connect and stay connected, and be present.
- Reading my Bible is similar to exercising; I never regret doing it, and I always feel amazing afterward. Why, then, are these things SO difficult for me to stick with? Particularly with this extra time on my hands? Let’s be honest, I am not that busy. This just tells me that I have some serious re-prioritizing to do.
- In the same breath, I’ve realized that I’m done riding the shame spiral. Done putting unrealistic expectations on myself, done feeling like a failure when I don’t meet these unrealistic expectations, done putting myself in a box. A dear friend (you know who you are) recently pointed out to me that I like to proclaim things about myself and write them off as “truth”. That I resign myself to “facts” about what I can or can’t do, or that I am/am not passionate about something because deep down, I’m afraid to be a child at something and to risk failure. Annnnd…mic drop.
Gain #3: Appreciation
- I have been clinically diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This means that my brain literally never stops thinking, analyzing, worrying, etc. My therapist asked me once to think about when (if ever) I last experienced boredom. As the mother of a toddler, a serial overachieving perfectionist, and someone who used to base their productivity on how many boxes they could check off on their completely unrealistic to-do list, this was a completely foreign concept to me. For the first time in years, there are days during this pandemic where I have actually experienced boredom! It actually makes me feel triumphant when I start to feel bored, because this means that I am taking control of my mental illness rather than it taking control of me.
- In contrast to my first bullet point, I am actually incredibly grateful for technology and the benefits it has given me during this time. I have transitioned to working from home full-time with virtually zero interruption and have been incredibly fortunate to remain employed; I am able to communicate and stay connected to those dearest to me; and I have even completed an inductive Zoom Bible study!
- Finally, I am eternally grateful for the gift of time. Time with my daughter, time with my husband, time with Jesus. Time to breathe, time to explore hobbies I forgot I loved and passions I forgot I had. Time to focus on actual self-care (not just pampering and fluff): taking care of my mental, physical and spiritual health.
I guess what it boils down to is this: we have a choice. Every day, the stress of this year (or life in general) threatens to swallow us whole. And let’s be honest: some days we give in. We let doubt, fear, anxiety, worry, apathy, shame, guilt, and pride creep in and settle in the places where Jesus has been working so hard this year to clean house. It’s there that the enemy wants to keep us, focusing on all the things that have gone wrong this year and the uncertainty of what is to come.
But guess what? Jesus always has the final say. And He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. Stay the course, friend.
About Ali Gadbaugh: Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Ali is a homebody who counts coffee, her husband and daughter, and Jesus as a few of her favorite things. She likes to add a little sarcasm and humor to life, and is passionate about growing and deepening her relationship with her Savior.