I have two questions I like to ask myself each day: What is important? And What is next?
These two questions help me order my day. One is a question that looks at the ‘big picture’ and the other identifies the next step toward that. As an example, I might answer that helping people find Jesus and the abundant life He promises is important. This drives the desire to open Threshold House as means of loosing empathetic evangelists in our addiction riddled community. The next step might be making a phone call or writing an email or setting up a meeting. The next step is a ‘bite sized’ action that moves me toward that important goal. Daily life, then, is made up of a series of small steps toward that important thing and involves ‘keeping one’s eyes on the prize’. This is the life I am used to living. This is my ‘purpose driven’ life!
My current challenge is that so much of that agenda is ‘on pause’ and has taken a back seat to other more immediately important subjects. The question remains “What is important?”, and my old answers are no longer totally adequate. This has required much reflection, but I certainly have time for that, and so I pray and seek God. These are my answers so far to the ‘big picture question’
- I am to love God. I have an abundance of time to act on this “first and great commandment”. This means time in prayer, but not just with my ‘shopping list’ but in a quiet listening time. It includes a conversational relationship and the cultivation of a truly thankful heart. I am such a blessed man! I read the Bible and I study the Bible. Loving God is important.
- I am to love my neighbour. This second and great commandment is challenging in a time of ‘physical distancing’. It involves praying for people I can’t touch. It means intentionally calling to check up on people. It means sending encouraging notes. It means not ‘panic buying’. I love my neighbour by staying in! I have the opportunity to save lives by simply staying home! I get to use my superpower of introversion to guilt free excess! I do it by washing hands and avoiding contact. I do it by putting a Teddy Bear in my window for tots and their parents to spy on their ‘Bear Hunt’ walks in our neighbourhood. I do it by trying to mourn with those experiencing grief and loss when our rituals around loss are impossible. I do it by trying to celebrate with those who have joyous news but cannot celebrate in normal ways. Loving my neighbour is important.
- I am to take care of myself. The second and great commandment assumes self-care. I need to wash my hands and isolate for myself as well. God is not finished with me yet! When we emerge in our own ‘rebirth’ Easter experience I will have important things to do and I want to be prepared. I want to be prepared physically. I cannot get to the gym, but I can walk (thank God) and I can sleep, and I can eat well. I want to prepare spiritually. It would be a shame if I emerged from this cocoon still a caterpillar. This is the ‘lentiest’ Lent I will likely ever experience, and God doesn’t want me to waste this critical time. John the Baptist’ advice is good for me today “He must increase, and I must decrease.” I want to prepare emotionally. I need to be aware of the early onset of any depression and take immediate remedial action. This is important if I am to emerge prepared at the end of this. Loving myself is important.
Isolation need not result in atrophy, but it can if we are not careful. I encourage us to ask the big picture question and then take the next small step and the one after that! Occupying the time until our long, long, Lent ends in a glorious and inevitable Easter!