If it were not for the economic distress caused to people and families by so many businesses, schools, and events scaling back due to coronavirus, a cultural slowdown could have been a good thing—kind of like a well-needed sabbath.
Let us face it, we all move too fast, and technology has only heightened that over the past few decades. Now, I do not want to dismiss the sufferings that coronavirus is unleashing on the world. There will be deaths, some people will lose their homes and jobs, and it may take a while for us climb out of what we are facing. With that said, however, there may be a few benefits, and society may have a minute to catch its breath. Since it is happening anyway, maybe we can learn something from it.
Much of the activity we engage in is unnecessary and ultimately exhausting. We are a culture that has virtually lost the ability to pause and reflect. Most people are unable to stand in line at the grocery store without feeling a pang of inactivity that causes them to pick up their phones for relief. Our jobs never end because our email is always in our pocket, and even when we do have downtime, we feel the anxiety of the need to catch up on TV shows, movies, and events. The fear of missing out is a real thing and affects us more than we realize, and with all those options comes decision fatigue. We are an exhausted culture.
There is a reason why God rested on the seventh day of creation. It was not that He was tired, he was showing us, by example, that rest is good. When I was growing up, which was not that long ago, most businesses closed on Sunday. Our culture has entirely abandoned that way of life, and it has cost us. Socrates was right when he said the unexamined life is not worth living. We have so filled our lives with shallow activity that we fail to examine anything other than the next shiny thing vying for our attention and time.
The problem with failing to pause and reflect is that the longer you do it, the more difficult it is to begin again. The first reason is that we have crowded it out of our calendars, and the first thing marketing 101 teaches us is that we are more driven to keep something we already have than we are about getting something we have not needed up to this point. This truth is why marketing often includes phrases similar to “do not miss out,” rather than “get one of these.” Once our schedule is too full, whether it be work demands, social commitments, or even social media engagement, it is always harder to step away than it was to begin in the first place because we now have something we do not want to lose. Trimming your commitments will always be troublesome.
The second reason it is difficult to slow down enough to begin to pause and reflect is, when we start to ponder our current existence, we begin to see how much we have drifted away from who Christ has called us to be, and that is painful to realize. C.S. Lewis once told a story about a night he woke up with a toothache. It was the middle of the night, and he was hurting. Lewis knew that if he told his mother, she would give him painkillers, and he would be able to go back to sleep, but he did not do it. He laid there for hours in pain before the agony forced him to go to her. He said, “Why did I wait so long to go to her? Because I knew, even though she could offer me relief, the next morning, she would have a dentist appointment scheduled to get to the root of the problem.”
Lewis’ example paints a picture of many of us. We have been so distracted for so long; we do not know what it is we have been distracted from. As believers, Jesus has called us to walk with him; to abide in the vine. The reality is many of us have not been doing that. We know pains and anxieties plague our lives, but we are afraid to slow down enough to go our Savior because we know the minute we do, though he will comfort us, he will also call us to make some more significant changes in the way we live.
My prayer is that, though the fallout from Covid-19 is more than I want anyone to face, since we are forced into a cultural slowdown anyway, it will be a time of drawing close to our Savior. A time where we are unable to bury our spiritual pains in a flurry of activity. Most importantly, however, that we will then take those pains to our Heavenly Father, who can heal us with the balm of Gilead. The blood of Jesus can wash us clean from our sinfulness, and even though He may schedule a root canal for us the next day, we will learn, at that moment, that we can trust him no matter where he leads.
Once this cultural slowdown is complete, and we have had a tasted and seen that the Lord is good even amid hardship, my prayer will be that we will return to a new normal. A less frantic life. One more centered on our true calling, glorifying God and enjoying him forever.
More on being too busy:
Christian, You Need to Slow Down