If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time over the last three months reading articles online, searching for some message that will put into words the anxiety and unsettledness you may have been feeling—something to help make sense of the swirling uncertainty that has overtaken our world during this pandemic. There’s no shortage of content to consume, but not all of it is edifying or helpful. However, one resource in particular that has resonated strongly for me, and for all of us at Edvance, are the thoughtful posts shared by Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson on his blog.
Curt may already be familiar to you, as he was a keynote speaker at the Annual Gathering a few years ago. Perhaps you knew what was to come when you heard he was joining our circle for a virtual session last week. In planning out this session ahead of time, I was struck by Curt’s warm and enthusiastic emails. It felt like a friend was coming for a visit, and something special was about to happen.
I was not disappointed. Curt’s words to us were personal, rooted in scripture, and deeply affirming. From the notes and emails we received afterward, many of you were also moved by this session. There were a few key themes that came through, which have remained on my mind over the past week. I wonder if these continue to ring true for you as well.
Our current situation can be compared to a time in the Old Testament when the Jews were exiled to Babylon. It was a time of great hardship and uncertainty, with no end date in sight. Many people were saying not to worry, it won’t be long, everything will be back to normal soon. Sound familiar? In the midst of this, the prophet Jeremiah sent word to the exiled people that they should not listen to the lies of the false prophets. They were in Babylon for the long haul. What were they supposed to do?
Jeremiah shared some clear direction from the Lord for the exiles: Build houses. Plant gardens. Settle in. Do good in the land for the good of the city. I’m reminded of the phrase “bloom where you’re planted”. Curt put it this way: God is saying “I want to dwell with you, where you are right now. Let’s create an outpost of goodness and beauty here.”
When we’re stuck in a pattern of waiting for things to get “back to normal”, we aren’t experiencing the fullness of the place and time God has put us in, right now. Instead, we can choose to dwell with Him and with each other, learning to love each other better, and discovering all the new opportunities that God has put in front of us.
Stop the Relentless Focus on Productivity
As a society, we are so caught up in being productive. This time of pandemic has elevated the “hustle culture” even more than before. We are asked from every angle if we are effectively using all our new “free time” (as a working mom, I use that term ironically). We’re exhorted to take this time to exercise more, make a sourdough starter, do increasingly complex jigsaw puzzles, finish those nagging projects around the house, spend more time with the kids, finally focus on our hobbies, and it goes on and on. And that’s just the personal side of our to-do lists.
Even worse, isolation robs us of connection with others and fuels our anxiety. We wonder if we are producing enough. Is what we’re doing good enough? What is everyone else saying about our output? We want to know that we’re producing, because so often that’s where we look to find value in ourselves.
Curt reminded us that the shame we feel in thinking that we’re not being productive enough, is a lie. Our capacity to produce is not our value. Our value is found in God’s unfailing love. God promises that whether we produce or don’t, He does not leave or forsake us. He loves us always, unconditionally.
Extend Unfailing Love for Each Other
One of the greatest things we can do in this time, as difficult as it may be in our limited way of being together, is to extend God’s unfailing love to each other. In this time of great uncertainty, when we can’t predict what’s coming next, it’s so hard to make plans. What a gift it would be if we knew that doing whatever we can do in this moment will be met with unfailing love.
In Curt’s words:
“This is what we can be about, with each other and for each other. When this is all said and done, we won’t look at each other to get a sense of whether or not we’ve made bigger things, made better things. But at the end of this time, we will know that we are more deeply loving people. And we that have been be more deeply loved by others.
"In that space of being loved that deeply, there will be no option other than what can be created in this time will be made. Not because we’re so smart, not because we’ve been able to predict the future, but because we’ve loved each other as best as we possibly can.”
Our love for each other is core to the outpost of goodness and beauty that God is helping us to create, right here, right now, right where we are. I can’t imagine anything that I could produce on my own coming anywhere close.
Sarah Burt is the Marketing and Communications Officer at Edvance.