On March 12, 2020, I stood at the end of a long line with a basketful of granola bars, peanut butter, and whatever meat I could find on nearly empty shelves. School had just been called off for the next day, and in a panic, I left our daughters with my husband and drove to the nearest grocery store. In the face of so much uncertainty, it was my way of doing what I could to control the situation. If we have snacks, I thought, we will be OK.
Of course, we’d need a lot more to be OK over the next few months. We’d need new ways to keep in touch, even if that meant occupying a tiny square on a screen. More time outdoors, socially distanced from our neighbors but within chatting distance. We’d need to slow down—a lot, in some cases.
Three years after the start of the pandemic, I can feel some of the things we learned fading away, almost like it didn’t happen. But when I sense those things slipping from my mind, I want hold on tighter. As challenging as these years have been, especially in the beginning, God provided and sustained in ways I hadn’t experienced before.
1. A new appreciation for friends. I grew up in an era before the emphasis on Christian community was front and center in most churches. In my family, we did our church thing and our home thing and kept the two fairly separate. The shift to open up more of my life to my church community has been a stretch for me, but the pandemic pushed open those doors. When face-to-face community wasn’t possible, connection became more important.
One of my friends scheduled a time to read picture books to my children over Facetime so I could have a break. Our small group pushed our regular meeting time an hour later so everyone could get their kids in bed and then log onto Zoom. At those meetings, we shared our fears and struggles and prayed for the faces on the screen.
Even as the details of our pandemic season fade, those memories of how our friends delivered remain.
2. A new sense of urgency. When I try to articulate the biggest lasting lesson from the pandemic, I always come back to how precious life is. That’s not an earth-shattering idea, of course, but watching people grieve lost loved ones and fearing for our own health was a daily reminder to live urgently. Not in a bungee jumping, cliff diving kind of way, but intentionally nonetheless.
The phrase “lean in” has been used so often that it’s almost lost its meaning, but that’s what the pandemic taught me to do. To instill urgency in my engagement with other people. To lean urgently and expectantly into my relationships. To urgently embrace the opportunities God grants.
3. A new need to slow down. Over time, I grew to appreciate a slower life with more time with family and fewer outside obligations. As things picked back up, though, I filled our family calendar with gusto. We’re making up for lost time, after all. Perhaps that’s why now, three years later, I feel a new need to slow down. To sit quietly sometimes, without a task in front of me or a podcast on in the background.
It is possible to slow down, the pandemic showed us. The discipline of doing so is worth taking into our post-pandemic life.
I’m so grateful the many of the challenges to church life and family life have eased over the past several months. I’m praying now God will help me hold onto these reminders of his goodness, his faithfulness, and his love.
Written by Meredith Flynn. Meredith Flynn writes on the intersection of family, faith, and culture in Brighter Day, a column for the Illinois Baptist newspaper. She is a member of Delta Church in Springfield.