For these past weeks of social distancing, I have taken the opportunity to check in on some friends, old and new, through various means of social media and phone calls. Recently I had a friend mention to me that he thought I was probably not as busy recently as I may be used to, and I had to agree. My life, as are the lives of everyone, is vastly different than it once was, and I think about things differently than I once did.
Every day I look forward to walking the dog and I have come to deeply appreciate the chance to get outside and stretch my legs while she runs with her usual abandon through the pastures. I appreciate the little signs of spring around me and a few moments of feeling like everything is normal again. I used to consider it a chore, but now it is one of the high points of my day.
Thus do the times change the heart.
One of the things I have been thinking about on these walks is the use of this time. This is a unique time, obviously, and it is full of great sacrifices, and fear, and anxiety, but there is also time to grow and learn and experience. I was thinking about this one day, and noticed there was a sense of concern in myself that I might not come out of this with anything to show for it.
I read somewhere that William Shakespeare had to, as many did then, live through times of pandemic and quarantine. One time he was forced into isolation, and when he came out of it he had written “King Lear.”
Here is where my heart eased up and I cut myself some slack. There is no way I will produce something as grand and immortal as “Lear” during this time, so I just relaxed. I am trying to read more and I allow my mind to wander a bit while walking the dog, but creativity may or may not happen.
What I am doing is trying not to watch a lot of television, or at least no more than usual, so I have to be thoughtful and not allow myself to turn on the television until the evening. My one exception to this rule is over the lunch hour, I recently got into the habit of watching reruns of “Match Game” on the Game Show Network over lunch, and I would hate to lose that enjoyment.
In those times when I do flop down on the couch and grab the remote, I find myself watching old shows. I am spending most of my free time in Korea with the 4077th, or on the bridge of the Enterprise, or on Gilligan’s Island, or in Mayberry. I did not consciously choose to focus on these shows from my youth, I just sort of gravitated to them.
I suppose there is a part of me that longs for the simplicity they present. I know our world today is beset with struggle, almost insurmountable problems, so there is something healing in returning to Mayberry where the only real problem is Opie killing a mother bird with his slingshot. I know the problems are still there, and will be there when I turn off the television, but those few minutes can bring great peace.
Those moments of peace are a gift; however, we are afforded an opportunity to receive even deeper peace, not in Mayberry, but in the quiet gift of prayer. These days offer a chance to be renewed in the meaning of prayer in our lives.
During normal times, we tend to pray as we normally do, we say our prayers and we offer praise and make our requests to God, but these are not normal times. We have a deeper need for the peace which this gift can bring us.
Many have found their lives to be more hectic than they could have imagined, doing their jobs, taking care of their homes and families, all while now taking the place of schools. Many have found their lives quieter than they could have imagined; everyone is experiencing separation and a sense of isolation. Prayer is a gift of peace for each heart—busy or quiet or lonely.
During these days, we should embrace the time when we can simply sit quietly in the Lord’s presence, wherever that may be, and simply be brought to life in the gentle love He will give. We do not need many words, or any at all actually, just the time, the deep breaths and the moments of peace to allow the Lord to speak and flood our hearts with Himself.
In troubled times, we find the time, and in that time, we find what we need to endure.
So, my suggestion for these days: quiet prayer every day, a trip to Mayberry every so often, and maybe a good production of “King Lear” just to be inspired.