At midnight my country goes into lockdown. As many other nations have done, South Africa has imposed this radical course of action to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 virus. The Corona virus is almost all we think and talk about. I’ve stocked up on toilet paper and pasta and even some things I don’t normally buy just because they were still available on the nearly empty shelves (does anyone have a good recipe for borlotti beans in brine?)
Everyone I speak to—from a safe distance of course—is on edge.
A scene from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring comes to mind:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Gandalf’s words are the ones I want to take into the coming weeks: All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
There is a choice to be made as we face this frightening, invisible enemy and the hard-hitting consequences of the lockdown. Each of us needs to choose right now how we are going to respond to this crisis. And, if my own fickleness is anything to go by, every day we will need to choose again to follow through on our resolutions.
Here are my seven choices as we head into lockdown:
I Choose to Anchor Myself to God
I have never been so aware of my need for God. Bringing my fears and concerns to him in prayer lightens the inner heaviness. Allowing him to speak through my daily Scripture reading brings peace and insight. During this crisis, many people have shared jokes, quotes, poems and excellent advice. No matter how good, they didn’t come close to the way God’s Word has ministered to me recently. Every day he gives me a new gem of a verse to tuck into my heart for this specific time.
I Choose to Stay Connected to the Body of Christ
Our last service at Rosebank Union was a particularly joyful one as we welcomed our new senior pastor. Little did we know that it would be the last service we would have together. Church looks different now. The service is recorded and we watch it from our homes, alone or with our family and maybe a friend or two. One could be tempted to think that we are losing ground as the Body of Christ, but I believe nothing could be further from the truth. Yesterday RUC had an online prayer meeting. 58 people were logged on, but with couples and families at each screen, there were probably over 100 people participating. Take it from someone who has been to a few prayer meetings – that’s a lot of people praying at the same time! Many of our bible studies are happening on Zoom. My community group’s WhatsApp group pings with prayer requests and gentle ‘how are you’s?’. The Body of Christ is active and I choose to stay connected to it.
I Choose Not to Panic
I believe fear is a natural response to what we are going through right now. We must acknowledge the fear in us—it’s not a weakness or a lack of faith. Rather, it stems from the realisation that we have almost no control over our health, our loved ones, the economy or markets, or the length of time this crisis will last. But one thing we can control is how we respond to our fear. Do we let it drive us to unreasonable behaviour, to emotional outbursts, to impacting others with our pessimism and panic? Or do we take our fears and surrender what we cannot control to God, allowing his peace to replace our fear? I choose the latter.
I Choose to Maintain my Joy
After the president’s first state of the nation address, I found my thoughts spiralling into dread and negativity. Then my daughter Nicole said, “This virus will test our ability to maintain our joy.” I saw the truth of her words. Joy is one of the gifts God gives us, but we can quench it with negative thoughts and words. The Bible tells us that joy gives us strength, something we need right now. So, let’s protect this beautiful quality and allow it to witness to the world.
I Choose to Limit Social Media
Early in the crisis, I often found myself on social media. There was a flood of information. Talk-shows, podcasts, statistics, information, graphs – I was constantly watching what came up on my feeds, trying to discern the fake news from the real. Then I realised that I needed to be more discerning. My pattern of behaviour was swallowing up time and feeding my negative mindset. Besides limiting the time, one of the guidelines I’ve set for myself is to have a Quiet Time before switching on the computer or checking feeds on my phone.
I Choose to Use my Gifts to Bless and Minister
This is a unique time, affecting every person we interact with. Never have those around us needed hope and encouragement more than they do now, and as Christians we are called to respond to this unique ministry opportunity. For me this means using my writing to bring encouragement and hope. What does it mean for you? I’m also choosing to check up on those I sense are struggling, those going into the lockdown alone or far from loved ones.
I Choose to Believe this can be a Time of Growth and Blessing
My last choice might sound strange in the face of the death, grief and devastation that this pandemic has unleashed. Yet I can already trace some of the growth and blessing in my own life. A renewed desire for God and the church. A greater appreciation of friends and community. An enjoyment of nature and simple pleasures. Realising that I have no control and learning to surrender. Witnessing acts of kindness and a growing care for the—sometimes neglected—elderly. Choosing to believe that this time can bring good, even amidst the hardship, allows me to embrace and appreciate the good in every moment.
Like Frodo, we may wish that the crisis threatening our world had not happened in our lifetime. Yet we do not get to choose the time of our birth or our death. What we do get to choose is how we live between our first and last breath.
What will you do with the time given you?