All “the talk” right now is about opening up, opening up our cities, counties, states, and countries. And, of course, how does that look. We want to “get back.”
I know I want to “get back” to being with people, eating out, weddings and funerals, graduations and baptisms, and shopping somewhere besides the grocery store. And yet, I’m not so sure I want to go back to exactly how it was before the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, the world was one of going and doing, of checking things off lists and then finding more things to do once the list was all checked off. We seemed to think that if we could just accomplish everything, then we could rest.
Once going and doing and going and doing was not an option, we learned that reading in a cozy chair, playing games with family, soaking in the freshness of spring, stirring up new recipes, and even cleaning and organizing our home is time well spent.
Some of us learned that to allow others to help us by bringing groceries, medicine, and other necessities to our homes. Others of us learned that being the delivery person is extremely rewarding.
Some of us realized that eating out and spending money had become our only hobbies; that we had forgotten how much we enjoyed playing music, knitting, building birdhouses, or whatever hobby you reclaimed while sheltering in place.
Perhaps instead of wondering how we “get back” to pre-pandemic routines, the better question might be: since our routines are turned upside down – do we have an opportunity to turn our expectations of ourselves upside down?
Jesus has some things to say about expectations, which at first seem difficult and upside down from what we expect. He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 The Voice)
We bristle a bit at the word yoke – who wants to be a beast of burden, and yet yokes were specially made for each animal so that they didn’t chafe or dig or become too heavy. And so it is with Jesus’ yoke; “it is perfectly fitted to our curves.”
Once we get past the whole “yoke” thing, we hear this: “Learn from me. I’m gentle and humble.” In this time of fear and anxiety and worry, the words “gentle and humble” pull at our weary souls. It is in that gentleness and humbleness that we learn and that we find rest for ourselves.
I’m guessing that most of us have learned quite a bit about being humble while we have sheltered in place. We have learned that we indeed are not in control of our lives or our routines.
We can also learn from Jesus to be gentle with ourselves, to pare back our lists to reasonable expectations, to make time for hobbies, family, friends, and for ourselves, to find that cozy chair or porch swing or new recipe.
In being gentle with ourselves that divine spark we all carry, pulses into a new way of being in the world, one of balance between going and doing on the one hand and finding rest for our souls on the other.
Eugene Peterson in The Message translates Jesus’ words this way:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I hope that we don’t just want to “get back” to our lives. I hope that instead, we see this as an opportunity for new expectations for ourselves, that we recover our lives to find real rest, that we learn the unforced rhythms of grace as we keep company with Jesus, learning to live freely and lightly.