Our toddler grandsons spend a fair amount of time in Time Out. Their mom has a little chair by a lonely wall and a tiny sand-filled timer there. It looks like an hour glass except it is only a minute timer. They are close in age and tend to tussle over all kinds of things, especially Monster Jam trucks, of course. A minute long Time Out reset to them feels like forever.
Recently when I was with them, they were playing pretty well together in their room when I heard things escalate. The older one came out crying and the younger one ran straight to Time Out looking oh-so-guilty. I didn’t even have to ask what happened. They seemed to have it all worked out.
Doesn’t it feel like we’ve all been in Time Out for a very long season now? We are approaching one year of our different kind of pandemic living. We aren’t on hard lockdown but there aren’t a whole lot of safe gathering options or things to do these days. Most of us are not traveling much. We can’t do concerts, fairs or any crowded fun events. We can’t have parties, big weddings or crowded worship services. If we go to stores to shop it is not half as fun as it used to be, everything coming with a risk attached.
Most of us have had to quarantine a time or two or more through this. Suddenly having to keep our distance even further from everyone, sometimes having to isolate in our own homes. What is happening with all these Time Outs?
And now, we have this icy cold gripping almost everyone. In Texas this feels like a very bad bait and switch deal. It is well known that we Texans live here and tolerate the heat in the summers in order to have mild winters. Now we are having mid-February ice/sleet/snow and cold, cold, cold? We did not agree to this. The outdoors was our safe place. Patio lunches and dinners were our joy. Every time we are outside in the winter we say to one another, see, this is why we live here. Just two days ago I saw dozens of robin redbreasts feasting on my holly bushes reminding me spring was definitely on the way. This morning when I walked the wind chill was 12 degrees. In a few days, our low will be 0 degrees. Excuse me? That’s not even the wind chill, that is the actual temperature.
It’s like our pandemic Time Out has had a winter Time Out laid right over it and I for one, am insulted. I know people in the north have been living like this every single winter. You all know what you are doing. We are simply not cut out for this here.
Once again, as always, a Jesus Calling devotional speaks right into my current outrage. Thank me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still. Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again. Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sickbeds and prison cells. (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, 2-16)
When I read this, my mind flashed to four and a half years ago when I had just made the big step to exit a ministry position in a church in order to be available to our growing family. I was at my daughter’s home waiting on our first grandson to be born. I was going to be helpful in every way. Instead I fell in a tiny hole, exactly six days after leaving my job, with only days before the baby was due. I broke my ankle. I could not drive. I could not move. I could not shower. I could not be helpful as planned. It did not occur to me to be thankful for the conditions that were keeping me still.
It doesn’t really occur to me now either, in this multiple Time Out situation we are in, to be thankful. That’s why I need scripture. That’s why I need devotionals. That’s why I need all the help I can get. I need input on these things from someone other than me.
The devotional goes on and describes quietness and trust as ways we can serve God. Have you ever thought of being still as a way to serve? And, take in this line: Although you feel cut off from the activity of the world, your quiet trust makes a powerful statement in spiritual realms.
Clearly we are in a double or triple Time Out season. Or, maybe you are sidelined right now by something else you didn’t see coming…an illness beyond the pandemic, something broken you are trying to heal from, a splintered relationship you need need to stay away from, a layoff from the job you loved, a sudden change in your normal routine.
What will you do with your Time Out? What will you make of it? Will you spend it watching the timer? Arguing with how you got here? Pouting? Asking to speak to the manager? Registering an online complaint? Writing something nasty in the comments section?
Or, will you practice a new kind of stillness, a new kind of service, a deeper, more abiding trust?
I’ve said since the beginning of all this, this is go time for Christians. It is time to practice what we preach and live our faith instead of just studying it and talking about it.
How will you handle the season? Later, history will be written about us and how we managed. What do you choose? How does your story turn out?
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace (the pouty boy pictured here) and River. To read more blogs, see upcoming events, learn about the Jesus Calling Weekly Prayer Call or to sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle emails, go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com.