Well, here we are. The State of Oregon is in its seventh week of Governor Brown’s Stay Safe, Stay Home orders in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. It has been a disorienting experience as we try to stay informed with the latest developments, learn to navigate a changing landscape, and incorporate new technologies that enable us to stay somewhat connected during a time of practiced distance. What weird times we are living in. Not unprecedented, of course, but weird, nonetheless. How does one live and make the best use of time during this season?
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus he instructed them, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). “Making the best use of time” is, more literally, “redeeming the time.” Paul sees time as a precious gift given to us from the Lord and we must seize it, rather than squander it. We ‘redeem time’ by freeing it from useless pursuits and instead dedicate it for purposeful endeavors. If we don’t listen to Paul’s instruction; if we don’t relate to time wisely, we will unwittingly, waste it.
But what does redeeming the time look like in a worldwide pandemic? How can we, under the Lord’s leading, use our time wisely, making the best use of it? Let me offer three suggestions.
By recalibrating your spiritual priorities: This season we’re living in has afforded us the opportunity to recalibrate our spiritual practices. If you find yourself with more time on your hands than before, see it as an invitation from the Lord to spend more time in prayer, reading God’s Word, and engaged in His mission. You fail to redeem your time if you fail to prioritize your spiritual growth. This season is a great opportunity to recalibrate your spiritual priorities, but you’ll need to be diligent in it as we’re prone to get distracted. As John Piper famously (and ironically) tweeted, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
On the other hand, if you’re one of many who have less time on their hands than before, as you’re now homeschooling and working, then remember it was Martin Luther who said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” The busier we are, the more necessary prayer becomes.
By renewing relationships: One of the interesting developments that has come out of this pandemic is that our normal routines have been forced to change. I was speaking with an older friend the other day and he mentioned that because his health club is closed, he has been walking a loop of about 3 miles and he has connected with several other neighbors out doing the same. Trea and I have had a similar experience. While we were out for a walk, we reconnected with one of our neighbors who we have not seen or spoken with in a very long time. Could this season be an opportunity to renew relationships with neighbors and in time, enable us to share the reason for the hope we have within us amid uncertainty (1 Pet. 3:15)? Could the Lord be using these renewed relationships to draw others within our communities into the Kingdom? Yes! The Lord uses people to draw other people into His redemptive work, and this unique season is providing us a new avenue to connect with those we otherwise would not have. So, redeem this time by looking to renew relationship with neighbors and community members.
By resolving not to return to ‘normal:’ For many of us, these last 7 weeks have forced us into a different way of life. We have had to reconsider the Psalmist’s words, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away…Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:10; 12). This counting of our days, in light of eternity, is crucial. It causes us to reevaluate practically everything. It forces us to ask questions such as, ‘Have I been seeking and building my kingdom or His?’ ‘Have I been so busy making a name and an image that I’ve failed to rest in the knowledge of being created in God’s image?’—the very thing that happened at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 1:26; Gen. 11:4). ‘Have I been so preoccupied with building a life, that I’ve neglected my family life?’ ‘Have I been seeking my identity in my children, rather than finding my identity in being God’s beloved child?’
This season of our lives—living in a worldwide pandemic—will not be wasted if it causes us to reevaluate our lives, our relationship with the Lord and resolve to not return to ‘normal.’
My hope is that when the COVID19 crisis passes, we will have used the time wisely. Maybe even by adopting a pandemic pace of life, where we purposefully carve out enough margin in our days to hear the Lord’s voice through His Word, seek His face in prayer, and in His name love well those within our family and community.