Look! The virus is celebrating St. Patrick's Day! Arek Socha@Pixabay
St. Patrick’s Day 2020 is when it all became real to me. Oh sure, my daughter called me the week before with the breathless announcement that Tom Hanks (Mr. America!) had the virus. That same night the NBA halted their season. Church was cancelled that Sunday on the 15th (but that was only going to be for a few weeks, right?).
The dark cloud seemed to be looming and getting closer but the punch was when my son was laid off from his restaurant job on St. Paddy’s Day. It’s seems goofy now to say, but this was when I knew that this thing was serious.
We soon found out that my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law – a world-famous neurosurgeon – died from the disease. My dear friend was at the super-spreader community choir event in Washington and got COVID. Our niece, working in the ER at a Cleveland Hospital, was infected and ill for two weeks. Losing a job, by comparison, seemed like a breeze.
As the reality of the pandemic set in, there was little optimism in the air. Yet, there was also the feeling that things were going to be different. The concept of time would change. I embraced this new reality whole-heartedly. For the first time I made dog biscuits. I created a beautiful basket using my mother’s old broaches. I fixed a vacuum cleaner and my husband and I completed our first-ever jigsaw puzzle. COVID was awful, but hey! We’d make the best of it and discover a new way of doing things.
I don’t know when it started to creep back, but somewhere along the line life started getting busy doing “stuff” again. The pressure was on: do exactly what we’d been doing before pandemic times. But…with the added layer of doing it by ourselves unless it was via Zoom. Lots more screen time. Had we just made things worse?
Henri Nouwen, in Letters to Marc About Jesus, wrote:
“If I were to let my life be taken over by what is urgent, I might very well never get around to what is essential. It’s so easy to spend your whole time being preoccupied with urgent matters and never starting to live, really to live.”
Nouwen begs the question: How have we really lived during this past year?
Have we figured out the difference between doing what is urgent and doing what is essential?
It’s obvious what was urgent:
- Figuring out how to do online worship.
- Paying the bills.
- Determining what to do with little ones while working from home (one more hour of TV won’t hurt them!).
- Keeping safe.
What wasn’t so clear is what was, what is, essential.
- Did our Zoom work conversations bring us closer?
- Do people have a better understanding of what it means to live in abundance?
- Do we know our immediate neighbors any better?
- Did we establish a renewed relationship with God?
Maybe you are the lucky one. Perhaps you have fully embraced this time to see the world and operate within it in a new way. I want to learn from you.
My Type A personality has me filling time, never settling down. Most of my work is important. Some might even say essential. But I have a nagging sense that sometimes I revel in doing the urgent work. It’s easier and doesn’t require much emotional or spiritual energy.
As this COVID year moves into year two – with hope of the virus’s demise on the horizon – I want to pull back a bit on what’s urgent and start focusing on what’s essential. I acknowledge that thinking about what’s essential isn’t an option for a lot of people. Many can only focus on what’s urgent – just in order to make it to the next day. So, my prayer is for them and it’s for those of us who can take the time and think about and act upon what is essential.
Because, “it’s so easy to spend your whole time being preoccupied with urgent matters and never starting to live, really to live.”
So, friends let’s start to live, really live. That’s a challenge worth taking – even during a pandemic.