The Virus Before the Virus

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I am writing to you from my back porch. A cool breeze is blowing as the sun climbs, promising another warm day.

We spent the afternoon chasing dogs at the dog park yesterday. My teenagers enjoyed the swings on the playground like little children. Our feet got muddy. The sun warmed our skin and we all laughed easily.

The dogs trotted along with tongues waggling, anxious for a drink but (especially the puppy) not anxious for the fun to end. The puppy loves to go for a walk more than anything else in life. I wish I shared her desire for constant exercise, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Now? I am writing, with nowhere else to go. Sure, there are dishes in the sink that I failed to wash last night. Whatever. I’ll do it this morning. But it’s going to be another glorious spring day. The forecast says 85. Eighty-five degrees.

I’m not complaining.

I have listened to the news daily, getting updates as the virus ravages our country, as precious people die, as workers lose their jobs, as prayer requests fly across the web for family and friends who have received the diagnosis we are all trying to avoid. It’s enough to turn a girl into a germaphobe.

But then I hear music from my son’s bedroom. He is blasting “Waymaker” and singing along with all of his heart. I’m sure, if I peek in, his hands are raised. My daughter puts on her pointe shoes and dances, leaps, and spins across the kitchen floor. My youngest snuggles on her Daddy’s lap and relishes the closeness she craves.

And I wonder, is the Coronavirus really the diagnosis we should fear? It is one among many others that take loved ones down every single year. I’m not downplaying the serious nature of this disease, don’t get me wrong. But as I hear friend after friend talk about the joy of the past two weeks I wonder what virus was lurking in our lives, undiagnosed, toxic and cancerous before the Coronavirus ever reached our shores.

We had no margin. Every minute of every day was full. Overflowing. All of our activities were good…church, youth group, small group, dance, basketball, riding lessons, band classes, tutorial, my classes, housework, errands, writing, exercise, homeschooling…not one of these in and of themselves is bad. In fact I’d say all of them are good. Very good. Useful.

But we had no margin. Every time I’d see a request for a meal train I would scroll on. I barely cooked for us anymore. We ate out way too much. If I was home it was something thrown together, convenient. No time to simmer. No time to bake. And definitely no time to linger around the dinner table. Meals were consumed out of paper bags, in the car, on the way to or from whatever good and useful activity we had because I would have, maybe, forty-five minutes to transition from one activity to another. A kid dropped off here, another waiting there. Oh, and homeschooling…bring your books in the car so we can get grammar done. Did you do your quiet reading today? Let me check your math…you need help? Ok, I’ve got a window right after lunch when we get back from the riding lesson.

She had a baby? Great. Needs a meal? Would love to but I am NEVER HOME to cook dinner much less deliver it. Maybe I can send her a gift card to a restaurant. He is in the hospital? Needs prayer? Ok, I’ll squeak out a quick prayer right this second because as soon as I close my browser I will forget all about it. There are hungry kids who need food? Ok, well I’ll have to cancel this or that or just not do history today so we can make those sandwiches to hand out. Oh, we can listen to history in the car. That will work. But no one can talk, you have to listen. There is a need for a family who took in a child rescued from a motel? Who had been trafficked? Ok, I’ll send a gift card to Wal-Mart since my schedule is full for the next few days because WE ARE JUST SO BUSY.

Satan has definitely pulled one over on us in recent years. We thought we were so on top of things, so busy with “the Lord’s work.” But we had scheduled ourselves literally to death and left NO MARGIN for the Holy Spirit to use. God is not in the middle of our plans. He is in the middle of HIS plans. Who am I serving? Why am I doing all of this? When was He supposed to use me, when I have left Him not one minute of my time to use?

Why are we doing all of this? He tells us, “In quietness and trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) Well, if that is true (and I believe it is) then we have become a very weak and frail people. The Christian culture, as a whole, is not quiet. We are busy. We are distracted. We are worn out and useless.

But the Lord has brought all of that to a screeching halt in the past two weeks, hasn’t he? All of a sudden I am cooking every single day. We are eating together in the dining room or on the patio. I have plenty of time to sit with my kids, talk with my husband, and go out and serve those who are in need. (Keeping socially distant, of course.) If someone needs a meal, I can cook it. If someone needs prayer, I have time to write it down and remember to actually pray for them. I am catching up on my Bible reading plan. I am finding new ways to be the church since we can’t go to church.

And maybe that is the whole point. God never asked us to check boxes and keep up with the Joneses. He asked us to love him with all of our heart, mind and spirit and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt. 22:37)

It’s kind of hard to do that when we don’t even know our neighbors. It’s really hard when we are never home long enough to invite someone over for coffee.

Let’s not waste this season. Let’s learn what God is teaching us through this massive slow-down. Let’s take care of each other and determine to leave margin, to allow God to determine our schedule and block out the time and activities HE says are in line with His plans and purpose for our lives and the world around us. It is time to rediscover what it means to rest in the Lord. We have time to do that now.

Hebrews 4:9-11 says this:

Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.

We are to make every effort to do one thing. We have been given one job. Rest. We are to exist in a state of rest, allowing the power of God to flow through us. We live and serve, not in our strength, but in a state of rest as His strength serves through us. We are a vessel. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. He dwells in every believer. He does the work of the Kingdom through us. We have believed a lie that says we are to do, do, do all these things for God. But the Bible says the opposite.

God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.

Colossians 1:27-29

Paul knew. He understood this concept because He had lived the “busy religious life.” And now, as he walked with Christ through persecution and suffering (and, dare I say, disease in a time where modern medicine did not exist) he shared his secret. This is how he didn’t burn out. This is how he was so well-used by God. Read it again, in verse 29 he says it so clearly…

I labor for this, striving with HIS STRENGTH that works powerfully IN ME. (emphasis mine)

Can we learn this? Can we choose to stop the madness and recognize that there is a lost and dying world around us that doesn’t stop dying just because our kid has an away tournament and we have to practice four days a week so they can win the title? Do you see what I am preaching to myself, here?

We need margin. Right now we have it. Please, for the love of God and the sake of His Kingdom, let’s hang on to it when the quarantine ends. We will all be healthier and I believe the world will take notice when the Spirit of God is allowed to use the Church like He has always wanted.


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