My office has several windows. I love keeping the shutters wide open so I can enjoy the sunshine and admire the signs of spring. But this year is a bit different. The hard freeze here in Texas left its mark. All over town shrubs and trees appear naked, leaves gone, branches brown and brittle—no life in sight. Many of us are going to have to face the music and just rip out the dead foliage and start over. I’m not quite ready to do it yet. I’ve been pruning away the dead branches, holding out for little spurts of growth to emerge from the sad-looking root systems that remain. Right now it’s hard to tell what is dead and what is alive.
I can’t help but wonder if the pandemic, like the harsh Texas freeze, killed off some areas in our lives that needed to be pruned. Will we let those areas go? Will we dig them up and replace them with new habits and routines, or will we hang on to them, hoping for a return to the way things used to be? The answers will be different for each of us. I personally don’t think we can go through an ordeal of this magnitude and remain the same. The question isn’t whether or not we have been impacted. The question is will we learn and grow from our intersection with this pandemic, a season of waiting and refinement.
A simple example which comes to mind for me is eating at restaurants. Prior to the pandemic, we ate out quite a bit. Of course, with the lock down all of that went away. As a result, I have cooked more, we have eaten healthier, and we have saved a ton of money! While I am all for supporting our local eating establishments, I don’t think we will return to our eating-out practices. In other words, we have “dug up” eating out and replaced it with home-cooking.
Another pandemic-induced issue I have had to face is my obsession with busyness. As long as I can remember, I have always been busy! From the time I graduated from college, I began teaching while simultaneously attending graduate school and serving as a school sponsor for various activities. At one time (before children) I also worked a part-time job. I know I am wired this way, but I have also discovered that if I am not careful, I can associate busyness with worthiness. I suspect many of us feel likewise. The busier we are the more important we feel. This certainly isn’t true, but it can easily become a deeply held belief system. When the pandemic hit, my busyness (as I had come to know it) came to a halt. While the letup didn’t last long, it was long enough for me to take stock of how I had let busyness become way overgrown and important. Pruning was (and still is) in order!
I would venture to say the pandemic has left little of our lives untouched. From personal priorities, to relationships, to work habits, and most importantly to spiritual disciplines—all have felt the impact in one way or another. Just like the dead bush outside my window, we will have to make a decision. Is this area of my life dead? Alive? Does it need to be dug up? Replaced? Pruned?
When spring comes, and it is coming, only that which had deep roots will survive. Our faith keeps us deeply grounded in God’s promises. From these promises, new growth will sprout as we submit ourselves to His Lordship over our lives. When everything else dies out, we are left with the beauty of who God is and His goodness to us. He is definitely alive!
The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” Exodus 34:6
The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9
No one is good but One, that is, God. Mark 10:18
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17
It is so easy to fill our minds with the devastating impact of the pandemic. However, it’s time to let go of the dead and the ugliness of the past year. Spring is coming. The pandemic is ending. How will we bloom in our next season? Let’s begin right now to prepare our hearts and minds for a new season of growth. God knows how to take everything we have lost and turn it into something beautiful for His Kingdom.
A Time for Everything
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. 5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 6 A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. 7 A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 8 A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. Ecclesiastes 3:1-13