A Change in Perspective
by Lisa Landrud
This virus is affecting people differently. For some people it means just a few inconveniences like stores closing early and favorite activities being cancelled or postponed. For others it means a time of uncertainty and anxiety, worrying they or someone they love will get sick and possibly die from the virus. For others their fears are already coming true -- no income, a family business closed and possibly lost, income lost or gone and bills piling up, or even worse--losing loved ones who have succumbed to the virus.
For me I am basically in the first group--there are some mild annoyances of inconvenience but mostly it has actually been quite nice to have the extra time. A slower work schedule and almost no other activities or commitments has allowed Tim and I to spend more time with each other. Our opposite schedules and different lifestyles usually make it so we don’t have tons of down time together. So while a couple of our planned getaways for quality time have been cancelled we have really been enjoying hanging out together at home most evenings. I've read about some couples who are driving each other crazy being “quarantined” together but thankfully our experience so far has mostly been the opposite and for that we are feeling sort of grateful for this crazy time we are living in.
I know not everyone is feeling so relaxed and happy during this time. Some people are having to work a lot of extra hours or work directly on the front lines with sick patients. There are parents out there stressed over juggling a new work from home job with also trying to be a stay at home parent and sudden homeschool teacher. Still others are bemoaning feelings of boredom and isolation, trying to figure out what to do with their free time or their kids free time.
So how as Christians are we to respond to all these changes? I have seen lots being written and talked about regarding trusting God with our fears and anxieties...I think that is very helpful. I’ve also seen commercials and Facebook posts emphasizing the need to support our local restaurants who are struggling during this time by continuing to buy takeout and delivery. I think that is a great idea too. But more of what I've been thinking about is how those of us who are healthy, young(er), and able bodied should use our time--if we’re one of those who have been “given” extra time during these couple months. Is this the time to Disney Plus to your repertoire of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Sling TV etc.? Is this the time to go out and buy another IPad so all your children have their own tablets to entertain them all day while they don’t have t-ball, dance, soccer or play dates? Is this the time to take advantage of all the amazing free podcasts, livestreams and online conferences being offered during this unique time? Some people have been offering to go to the store and get things for high risk friends and neighbors which is a great idea as well. But is there anything else we should be focusing on? Should we spend the rest of our “free” moments having quality time at home with our roommates or family like Tim and I have been doing? Should we schedule zoom calls every day or night to keep in touch with people who are important to us during this time of distancing?
As a counselor I am all for growing in our relationship with God and enhancing our relationships with others! However I have been feeling convicted lately about how maybe I’ve been enjoying spending my extra time on myself (and my favorite people) a little too much. For those of us Christians who are “sheltering in place” in our comfy homes with our comfy couches and TVs, binge watching shows, cleaning out closets, baking and cooking up a storm with all the food we hoarded and then wiping everything down with our lysol wipes and extra cleaning supplies--is this really the best way for us to be focusing our time? All these things have important benefits and can also provide a good distraction from our fears and anxieties. Plus we are submitting to our leaders and following their wise advice to “just stay home” so what is the problem?
What I’ve been thinking about though is what about all the people who are TRULY in hardship? For example, what about the growing number of people that are hungry and homeless? Normally we may do little things here and there to help out (donate some supplies, serve a meal at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving or on a mission trip) and trust that the rest of the time social services and charitable ministries are running just fine and taking care of the poor and needy. But have we given much thought to how they are doing now?
Many ministries that help those less fortunate are facing a tremendously increased need with fewer supplies and fewer volunteers. Soup kitchens and food banks, for example, are struggling to meet the tremendous increase in need for food to help more and more people who are going hungry. At the same time, they have less food being donated (fewer leftovers from restaurants, less generosity from people who are stocking up their own shelves for a quarantine) while being significantly short-handed because many of their usual volunteers are also staying home during this time. While I am at home enjoying my extra time with my husband in my comfy living room with our well-stocked kitchen some people are still out there putting themselves at risk to help the poor and needy. A few volunteers and overworked employees are working tirelessly every day to do things like serve food to the hungry or pack thousands of boxes of food to be shipped to food pantries across the country and find the money to pay for it all. Some people are still giving of themselves and being stretched thin to get less food into more hurting people's hands with less people to do the work. Meanwhile many of us Christians have so much more time on our hands than usual but what are we doing with it? We are supposed to be caring for the “least of these” (Matt 25:40) and the poor among us (John 12:8) but instead of we are holed up in our homes reading articles about what to do when we are “bored” and deciding which tv show or movie to watch next.
I know I am exaggerating a bit but I just think maybe our focus needs to be a little less on self-protection and self-preservation and a little bit more on sacrificing some of this “extra” time we have to help those who are truly in need? Yes that would be putting ourselves somewhat at risk even with all the extra precautions that are in place but how much does that sacrifice really compare with the sacrifice that Christ made to save us from our own self-focus?
“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17