If these past 18 months have taught us anything, surely it is that life is uncertain. One thing we have all lost this past year is a sense of future planning. We used to say, “next month we’ll go there”, “let’s plan where to go on holiday”, blah blah blah. Not any more. COVID stripped all that away with its exponential curves and soaring death rates. Suddenly we have discovered we are not in control. In fact, the truth is we were never in control, but we managed to kid ourselves we were.
And yet, Philip Yancey once wrote, “vulnerability is the landing strip for grace”. Nobody enjoys feeling vulnerable or weak, but it is primarily through our weaknesses that God teaches us. Now, as we look forward to continued re-opening, here are 10 habits we latched onto in our weakness, which we should perhaps not let go.
Appreciate their vulnerability
Realising the uncertainty of our world can give us a glimpse into the lives of millions all over the developing world. Uncertain living is new for many of us but not for them. For them daily living was always uncertain. Many simply don’t know if the work they do have will last the week, and if they are unable to work, there are no hand-outs.
Bizarrely, this loss of control can actually be harder for people living in developed countries to deal with. We’re not used to such uncertainty. May it make us more compassionate towards those who are.
Love where you live
My family has discovered half a dozen new walks near our house in the past year. We had to because we were told to stay local, and anyway, all the shops were closed. But it was great! Beautiful, and for us, completely new — different to the places we would usually drive to.
Ironically, when the Government allowed us out only once a day, I made SURE I went out every day. Now that I am allowed out as often as I like, some days I don’t go out at all! Still, this discovery of local beauty is something we can continue to enjoy.
Wash your hands!
Obviously, everybody washed their hands before right? …
The simple acts of washing our hands and staying home when we feel ill saves lives. It’s shockingly simple. I am told that the number of deaths from flu this past year has plummeted. How about if we never go back to the days of coughing and sneezing in the office?
And then, the hot topic of wearing a mask. A mask, as we know, protects others more than it protects you. That makes it an act of generosity. It says to others, “I care about your well-being. I care about your peace of mind”. Let’s continue to care.
How about we never go back to the days of coughing and sneezing in the office?
Know who lives down your street
Maybe your street like mine now has a neighbours’ WhatsApp group or something similar to help neighbours stay in touch. Looking after each other reached an all-time high during COVID with neighbourhood foodbanks and support circles springing up all over. Lots of us simply became more aware of people around us. Can we keep offering to do the shopping and pick up prescriptions? This well may be declined, but the simple fact that you offered to help is what people need to hear.
The simple fact that you offered to help is what people need to hear
Work from home (but do it intelligently)
I applaud flexible, hybrid working for those fortunate enough to be able to choose it. Removing the commute, saving money, work-life balance, it’s all good. But it comes with a warning. People who are not seen in the office are promoted less and paid less (there are credible studies to verify this). Moreover, if your company is okay with you working from home, why wouldn’t they outsource your job to someone in the Far East who also works remotely but for a quarter of your salary? It already happens in industries like mine (software technology). So, yes, flexibility is great, but if your organisation has a central office, consider the price you might pay for not being there; make sure it’s worth it.
Say NO to non-essential travel
This is pretty much the opposite of the last point but life is complicated and requires us to hold opposing ideas in tension.
The 2020 decrease in national and international travel led to reports of cleaner air in many countries. So don’t get into cars, planes and trains if you don’t need to. It will save you time and money, and it might just help save the planet.
Value the people who keep the wheels turning
This was the big discovery of summer 2020. We, rightly, began giving credit to the folks who keep society going. That included health workers, but also many other workers, often low-paid, who kept our lives on the road. Is that something we can remember, one, two or three years from now? Let’s try not to go back to simply looking past the people who serve us.
Keep church online and accessible
My church, like many, is suddenly all over YouTube, and we have multiple WhatsApp groups including one for our Watercolour Art Group where I think the youngest person is about 70. Indeed, I have been astonished at folks in their eighties who have regularly shown up at zoom prayer meetings. They had never heard of Zoom or WhatsApp before. “It’s bricks and mortar alongside clicks and coding”, as Peter Phillips of Premier Christianity said. From now on, can we try to make everything we do both physical AND online?
Can we try to make everything we do both physical AND online?
Keep church face to face and real
And yet, there is now a generation of children who think “church” is something you watch on YouTube. If that’s the case, it won’t be long before they work out you get better entertainment from Disney+ and Netflix. Much has been written on this “spectator mentality” of online church, and many of us are finding that encouraging our congregations back into our buildings isn’t easy. But, whereas some people cannot return to physical gatherings, most of us can and should. Although hybrid models of church are innovative and reach new audiences, church remains essentially an embodied, face-to-face, encounter.
There’s a generation of children who think “church” is something you watch on YouTube
Lean in to joy not fear
Joy is the story we choose to tell ourselves.
I have often been a glass-half-empty person. I find it very easy to darkly contemplate all the things that are not great about my life (maybe you too). But we have to choose the story we tell ourselves, day by day, and sometimes moment by moment. We can choose to tell ourselves, that it’s not fair, we can’t go abroad on holiday, we miss seeing our family, we’re not allowed into some venue or other. These things are true, and we can choose to view our life through this weariness and loss.
Or, we can choose to see our life through the eyes of a God who uses every experience to form us, to shape us with courage, perseverance, empathy and new habits. We can choose to remind ourselves that lots of things in life are not broken, that we have a new appreciation for the things around us, a new concern for people around us, new ways of working, new ways of being church. And we can choose to consider that, in a world filled with uncertainty and change, we can know a certain and unchanging God. It’s a choice!
Joy is the story we choose to tell ourselves
If you enjoyed reading this, try Saying Goodby to the Weirdest Year Yet — in Pictures!
This article was first published by Premier Christianity