Redeeming the Time While Sheltering in Place
We are all hoping that the COVID-19 pandemic will end soon. There is great concern about how long the social distancing and sheltering in place orders can last without permanently endangering the economy and people’s emotional health. We are constantly hearing different reports about the length of time before life will return to normal. Will things be up and running by Easter? Are we talking about the first of May? Could this last until August or longer? The more we reflect on the time, the more anxious we feel. I am very hopeful and prayerful that this will end sooner than later, but no one knows for sure.
Because no one knows for sure, maybe there is another way to think about the timing that is less anxious and more helpful. The Psalmist prays, “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). The Psalmist is reflecting on the brevity of life: seventy years, maybe eighty with good fortune and good health, but “they pass away quickly and are gone.” The Psalmist suggests that rather than hurrying through this brief life, we should learn to count each day as important, even as a precious gift, and use the day to learn wisdom.
During this pandemic, what if we began each morning with this prayer for wisdom? During these days of disrupted routines, what if we saw these days as a gift to use in order to gain that wisdom? During this time of sheltering in place, what if we focused on the opportunity of today?
If we could have that kind of intent, how would we use the time? What are some ways that we can gain wisdom? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Lexio Divina—literally, Divine Reading. It is a very ancient form of reading and refers to a way of reading that is for formation rather than information. It invites us to read, meditate, pray, and contemplate. There is no hurry to finish the story. In fact, you might spend time with one paragraph, or sentence, or even one word. I like to imagine Lexio Divina as a form of reading in which I am having a conversation with the author. I have to listen as much as I speak. Here is a brief article if you want to learn more https://bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/lectio-divina-beginners-guide
2. Journal—if you have not started the spiritual discipline of journaling, now is the time to start. If you would like a good example, I recommend the book, The Sign of Jonas, by Thomas Merton. If you have never journaled, a good resource for getting started is, How to Keep a Spiritual Journal, by Ronald Klug. There is no right or wrong way to journal. It is simply a way of taking time to reflect on your life, today, in this moment.
3. Personal inventories—the first step in gaining wisdom is understanding yourself. What we don’t know about ourselves consciously, we project onto others unconsciously. Anything that we can do to better know ourselves, the more wisdom we will gain. There are spiritual gift inventories, the 5 Love Languages inventory, and personality inventories. One inventory that I have found helpful is called Virtues in Action https://www.viacharacter.org/ It assesses your character strengths. If we can work out of our strengths, we can find greater fulfillment.
These are just a few ways that we can use this time in which our normal patterns are interrupted to gain wisdom.