Several times a week our grandmotherly neighbor in Romania would knock on my door and deposit a warm 1.5 liter bottle of fresh milk in my hands. She was the delivery, providing the service for another neighbor whose primary means of income was the cash she received from the milk of her one cow.
I home-pasteurized this ultra-local dairy and we enjoyed it, thick with cream, in our coffee and on cereal. Our local grocery store carried milk. I didn’t need to buy it from a neighbor. But during this one year of living in rural Romania, it was something I committed to do for a time. When I moved to California I didn’t search out a local dairy and continue to pasteurize my milk. It was only for a season. When I moved, that season was over.
We are all in a new season. We will do things we’ve never done before, things we intend only to do temporarily. The word ‘season’ is laden with meaning. It means change. It means transition. It means temporal. Something will fade away.
But something new will also be born.
In the northern hemisphere our season of isolation is happening in spring. Every day, sometimes twice a day, I inspect the young jasmine vines on my small patch of front yard. Planted last year, they have yet to bloom. Fresh, light green vines are growing in every direction. Small buds are beginning to form. I know one day I will walk out and behold the first white blossom. I am eagerly anticipating that day!
In the meantime, we are in the waiting. What do we do while we wait?
Many people are using this season to create.
A friend in Europe who tested positive for COVID-19 is quarantined to her bedroom. She stays connected through technology and is nurtured by her family. And she’s making a lot of macrame.
Another friend built a shed.
One started a blog.
We’ve seen the viral videos created by isolated families, videos that bring a moment of joy. I appreciate the creativity of others during this time.
For many this is not a season of unbridled creativity. For some, work has become essential and exhausting. There is barely a moment to stop and consider a blooming spring flower.
We are all at different points in this season of an emotional bell curve. Wherever we are on the curve, we are waiting. Some have yet to know a person who has contracted the virus. Some are just beginning the stay-at-home phase. Others are months into the ordeal. For many, someone close has passed away from the virus. This has become a season of great grief. But we know, at some point, a new season will begin.
When we emerge from our homes and begin new routines with new priorities, some of those seasonal habits will pass away. I started making sourdough bread in isolation. I’m probably not going to continue when it’s over. It’s for this season.
Seasons are a time of preparation
If you are a follower of Christ, you may be able to look back at the previous season of your life and see how God was preparing your heart for this time. A friend recently pointed out the relevance of Joseph’s story to our situation today. Joseph was sold by his brothers, became a slave in a foreign land, and was unjustly imprisoned. In prison, Joseph interpreted the dream of an influential person. He waited in anticipation for his reward and freedom. He waited in prison for two years (Gen 41:1). Joseph was given the opportunity over and over again to practice and learn obedience through suffering. Each season of his life, including the prison period, was preparation for how God was going to use him next.
The season before the pandemic was preparation for the pandemic. The pandemic season is the training ground for what God has called each of us to do after the pandemic. During the pandemic we are steely-eyed and focused. As Christians, we know our mission. However, as the memories of isolation begin to fade in a few months (or years), it won’t take long for us to weary of doing the good we began to do in isolation. Brothers and sisters, we must not grow weary in doing good (II Thess 3:13). Are we prepared to be on mission with Jesus post-pandemic?
This is a time of patient endurance, leaning moment by moment on Christ, who gives us strength when we are weary. But he’s not present only to lift our spirits. While we are filling our time with rest or creativity, intentional living and purposeful worship, God is moving.
Get Ready for It
Don’t be surprised. During this time God might completely redirect your steps.
This season was appointed by God. It will be transformational. We’ve lost jobs. We’ve lost control. We’ve lost the things in which we used to find joy and contentment, like catching a wave or a run through the woods.
Once our securities are yanked away we can clearly see and experience how God is there, filling those spaces with him. We can understand that our hope isn’t in our physical location, proximity to family or accessibility of our favorite foods. Our dependence on those things was stripped away as well.
I venture that some people will listen more closely to God’s nudges – and realize today is the day to obey. Perhaps they will start the business plan for the business they want to start in another country. Or they will move to support that new church plant. Or seek out a missions agency to pursue that call. No longer relying on a security that fades away, they will step out in faith.
Let us prepare for and anticipate the afterward of this season. God is speaking, leading people to be his more committed, obedient followers. Don’t be surprised when a friend says God is leading their family into ministry overseas. Be ready to support your neighbor when they confide they want to start a neighborhood Bible study with the neighbors they met online during the crisis. Pray for your relative who, during this time of isolation in their large home, has prayerfully begun the process of becoming a foster parent.
It might be tempting to think our change of life focus should only be temporary. I’m only doing this because I’m under duress. I’m only taking this next step because of these challenging times. This challenging time is a season that God has given to each person on the planet. The soil of suffering can produce a harvest of righteousness. Let us be trained by it. This is a season of suffering, but also of great anticipation. It’s an opportunity to learn obedience and walk more fully in mission with God, not just today but for years to come.