A global pandemic is not without its silver linings: rest from our something-on-every-evening schedules, quality time with family, time to purge/deep clean the house, etc. etc. But it’s no shock to anyone to hear that Covid-19 has also come with its losses – even to those who have thus far avoided contracting the virus.
As a new mother, I am still somewhat mourning the loss of a lot of things I was looking forward to in the first year of my daughter becoming a true toddler. I feel a sense of loss in the fact that my social, bubbly girl hasn’t been in swimming lessons or making friends at the park, but has been taught that it’s dangerous to get too close to the people we love most. And when my Oma passed away just a few weeks ago, we were robbed of the opportunity to remember her life together with all the people who she meant so much to, and who meant so much to her. These are only two examples of the losses, both big and small, that have been experienced by people all around the world this year.
But there is one thing in particular that Covid took from me that I am not interested in getting back.
My Lukewarm Affections
Before this year, if you had asked me what my devotional life was like, there’s a pretty good chance that I would have told you, “I wish it were better, but it’s just so hard to find time!” Fast forward to March of 2020. Basically overnight, I had an unbelievable amount of time on my hands. My husband was working from home and could help here and there with the kids, our church commitments were condensed to two hour-and-a-half Zoom meetings in the week, and all the social get-togethers on the calendar were postponed indefinitely. If what I had believed about “just needing more time” were true, my devotional life should have exploded!
But, spoiler alert, that is not at all what happened.
Over time, it became obvious to me that my busyness wasn’t what was standing between me and God. It was the state of my heart. And honestly, that realization was surprising to me. Reflecting on my pre-Covid life, I would have told you that my husband and I made God a priority in our lives. We loved to plan outreach events, spend time together with our church family, and discuss theology with anyone willing to engage us on that level. God was on our mind often, and He was regularly factored into our decision making as a couple and family.
But in the hours, days, weeks, and months that I was denied the opportunities to be active in the ways of church and outreach, I struggled to re-conceptualize the practical nature of my Christianity. I knew that I could still pray, but my attention span for it was childlike. I knew that I could still study my Bible, but my desire and focus was frail at best. It quickly became apparent that being busy with the things of God did nothing to teach me how to rest in the presence of God. Everything I had done in the service of God and His church was taken from me, and I was confronted by just how little was left.
A New Goal
The initial realization was disheartening. But as I have brought it before God, He has helped me to see my situation differently. Hebrews 12 teaches us that God disciplines the ones that He loves as proof to them that they are legitimate children. Now I don’t think of this in terms of Covid being a punishment for my lukewarm affections, but I do believe that God uses the circumstances of our lives to reveal to us the areas that we are unknowingly withholding from His Lordship.
“… he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” // Hebrews 12:10
This means that if you are in the same boat as me, the appropriate heart response is not to feel guilty. What we are meant to feel is gratitude: for a God who longs for connection with us, for a God who helps us to see the weaknesses we are truly ignorant of, for a God who promises to meet us with patience in our pathetic attempts to address those weaknesses, and for a God who ultimately enables us to grow to share in His holiness.
What Covid (but really, what God) took from me this year was the belief that all I needed in order to grow in my relationship with Him was more time. With that lie gone, I am free to face the coming year with more accurate and precise goals for my spiritual growth.
While I will always desire to make Jesus known, I will make it my goal to know and desire Him more myself. While I will always enjoy the company of God’s people, I will make it my goal to enjoy the presence of God Himself. And when I am tempted to view these goals as selfish, I will make it my goal to look to God’s word to remind me that all of my usefulness to Him originates in Jesus. The more I know and enjoy Christ, the better I will be at the service that I do.
By God’s grace, may this year be one marked less by works done for God in my own strength and more by recognizing the necessity and supreme value of God’s work in me.
For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. // Philippians 2:13, AMP
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