COVID protocols are easing, summer’s here, hope is finally in the air!
It’s been a long season of isolation, teleworking, online school, toddlers under foot, financial strain, limited travel. Add to this the emotional roller coaster we’ve experienced — feelings of loneliness, frustration, anxiety, fear, and disagreements over politics, race, masks, and quarantining. And attacks from the enemy!
Before we contemplate the future we need to hit “pause” and ask a very important question:
Do we really want to return to the way things were? Or do we want to reorient to something better?
Even though this season has been difficult, we’ve been given a wake-up call of sorts. There has been opportunity for growth in each of us on many levels, difficult lessons to be learned and hidden blessings to discover. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve been given a different perspective on what really matters.
Paul reminds us,
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
What has God been doing in our own life, in the lives of our family members and friends during this time?
One of the most helpful things in life is to ask good questions.
None of us wants to miss out on what God has for us. We want to experience His presence, to grow up in Him, to believe His love in a deeper way. How do we re-enter in this new season? Some talk of a return to normal. But what is normal anyway?
We want something more.
So here’s the purpose of this blog:
To encourage each of us to carefully evaluate the lessons learned during these past months with a view to making changes for the future so we’ll be wiser stewards of our time and resources and live more fully into the priorities we believe.
In doing this it’s helpful to ask questions in 4 categories:
- As a couple
- As a family
- Or with a few close friends
Looking back do I detect a theme that God has been weaving into my life?
I have sensed His speaking to me in some clear ways. (It might help to read over your journals of the last year).
What disciplines have I let slide? What do I need to begin in a fresh way? (Perhaps making a commitment to rising 30 minutes before everyone else to spend time in the scriptures and in prayer. Read a Psalm a day and underline one word or phrase you connect with.)
Find a girlfriend with whom you can commit to a regular time to share what God is doing in each of your lives and to hold each other accountable. One thing we’ve learned is that we need each other, and we need accountability for making changes.
As a Couple
How has my marriage been impacted by this past year and a half? Have we grown close or drifted apart? What are the reasons? What have we done during COVID that has enriched our relationship? What has drained it? What specific changes can we make as we go forward?
Perhaps commit to a regular date night, a “daily 20” in which each spouse takes 10 minutes to share about your day. No kids are to be in the room. Ask, “What was a good thing in your day? A hard thing? Was there a time in which you saw God at work?”
Set aside a time as a couple to discuss your family. (If you know a single parent ask her or him to join in this discussion.)
What are some ways in which this has been good for our family? Difficult? What have we done that has helped us grow closer to the Lord and to one another? (Perhaps more family meals, lessening of activities which have loosened up our schedules.)
One of the greatest challenges we have in raising kids in today’s world is over abundance of good options. We are on overload with information and opportunity.
One wise family has decided not to re-enter the pressure of signing up their kids for so many extra activities but instead to commit to regular family dinners during the week. It’s easy for us as parents to fall prey to “parental peer pressure” that says whoever’s kid is the most involved in good things is the best parent. Recognize this for what it is (parental peer pressure) and resist the temptation to jump back in.
Our goal should be to build close family friendships instead of resumes. In the long run which will matter more-that we said “no” to another activity in order to eat together several times a week or that we signed our kid up for one more sport? Do we want to collect trophies that will one day gather dust on a closet shelf, or do we want to build family friendships that will last a lifetime? It may be painful to say “no.”
It helps to remember that every time you say “yes” to something you have to say “no” to something else. Now is the time to ask, what will matter most 10 years from now? Your kids will complain but you are the parents, and you have perspective which they don’t at their age. Don’t be afraid to be firm.
Another family has decided to put clear limits on the use of any kinds of devices and instead to engage in family discussions and outdoor activities. One has declared a Sabbath on Sundays from all computers, devices, etc. for everyone. You may have to begin with smaller steps. The main thing is to begin with some change. One small step can make a big difference.
As a Family
If you have older kids it’s important to continue these discussions as a family.
Ask: What has been hard for you during the last year? (There is no wrong answer. Resist the urge to comment and instead simply listen.)
What are some things that have been good about this time?
What changes do you think would help our family as we move forward? (Several kids loved the spur-of-the-moment neighborhood invitation: come as you are and bring whatever leftovers you have to gather around the outdoor fire pit and have fun.) The lessening of a packed schedule has enabled spontaneous gatherings. And we’ve learned we don’t have to have perfect meals!
With a Few Friends
We’ve all seen how much we need social interaction. Gather a few close believing friends and brainstorm some of these same questions. What have you learned about yourself during this time? What changes do you want to make for the future? How can you follow through with one another?
A few years ago my son John decided to give up “hurrying” during Lent. I laughed at this but over the years I have never forgotten it. During this time of being slowed down I’ve experienced the joy of not hurrying as much as is my usual habit. I don’t want this to change. I long to soak in the moment and not focus as much on the future. I want to praise God more in the moment.
I don’t want to get picky or frustrated at things that don’t really matter. Instead I long to be more laid back and laugh a lot more. These desires are going to necessitate some changes. I will have to say no to good things in order to loosen my schedule and resist hurrying from one thing to the next. It will be hard.
What About You?
Asking good questions will enable us to take a heathy inventory. Create your own questions.
Remember that instant change is rare. Instead big changes begin with tiny steps. Don’t be discouraged. Simply take that first small step.
And ask God to do a new thing in your life and in the lives of those you love.
He is the God of NEW things.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry, He lifted me out of the slimy pit out of the mud and mire. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” (Psalm 40:1-3)