Like much of the world, I’ve been doing a whole lot less lately. We’ve all watched, helpless, as COVID-19 made its way to our towns and our activities and outlets shut down and closed. Eventually, I settled into my own personal lockdown routine, and the last few months have blurred together in a strange and otherworldly sort of way.
With three kids out of school, multiple high-risk family members, and our main source of income dependent on us NOT getting COVID-19, my family of five has been locked down longer than most people. Even as the country begins to reopen, we’ve continued a summer of social distance.
I’m an extroverted, community-oriented, highly active and involved person, so this has been, at times, excruciating. I like to stay busy enough that I don’t have to consider my feelings or grapple with the bigger issues in life. Sure, I enjoy deep talks with close friends and gaining knowledge through listening to others, reading books and listening to podcasts, but the thought of having literal hours each week to think makes me pretty restless. As this global pandemic forced me to actually process my thoughts and not fill my time with busyness, I felt like I’d received a strange gift I’d never even asked for.
While I thankfully still have close friendships intact despite losing the ability to see people in person, I have felt a sense of disconnection during my new “safer-at-home” lifestyle change. I’m still going about my days, finishing household and childcare tasks, as well as pursuing my own hobbies and interests, but my routine feels pretty different.
Between watering plants and completing the most mundane chores in a home (dishes and laundry on repeat, forever), attempting to homeschool on the fly, and just trying to fill the long hours for myself and my children, I began to lose faith that what I was doing mattered. Each day seemed to crawl by, inching the calendar forward as I kept reassuring myself and my family, in vain, that it would “all be over soon.”
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The boredom began to turn to despair, and I began to ask myself — and God — over and over, “does any of this matter if I’m not connected to anyone anymore?” The lack of face-to-face interaction made me question if what I was doing was meaningful at all, especially if no one saw it.
Everything I was doing felt so small, so insignificant, so ultimately not life-changing. I wasn’t writing the next “King Lear” or “Hamilton,” I wasn’t finding a vaccine or being lauded as a hometown healthcare hero, I was simply just living. In the midst of the stillness, I began taking the time to actually face my feelings of insignificance — I made a habit of sitting outside each morning to pray, read, and spend time connecting with God.
It didn’t feel earth-shattering for a long time, but one morning as I was doing the millionth load of dishes, I felt a still, small voice telling me that what I do matters because God’s kingdom matters. He made the plants I so meticulously cared for each day — he sees them even if no friends were able to come over and enjoy my work. His creativity, beauty, and glory is reflected in the pumpkins happily growing in my garden and the burst of color attracting hummingbirds to my flower pots. God saw each time I had a fresh load of laundry ready for my kids to fold and put away, and he is pleased with the work I’m doing of caring for the needs of others.
More and more, I began to feel like the work I was doing was meaningful, and the manner in which we live our lives — whether on the world stage, or in relative obscurity, matters.
Do I own my failures, flaws, and shortcomings and push forward towards humility and growth? Do I care for the neediest of people and give dignity to those who need it most? Do I treat my neighbors with kindness or concern?
The answers to these questions are always something I can personally improve on, and this is the work that the world is in desperate need of — whether I’m staying at home or returning to life as usual (whenever that may be).
Through it all, I felt like God gave me a truly sweet gift in reminding me that because his kingdom matters, literally everything I do matters. I went from feeling like Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill endlessly, to someone who was doing good, honest work that could change the world in unexpected ways. Being forced by COVID-19 to slow down gave me the space to realize this work can be done whether I see friends and coworkers each day or whether the only person who knows of my labor and sacrifice is God himself.
I’m thankful for this gift during a wild and crazy time — and I’m left pondering just how much more I might feel purposeful after the social distancing and isolation of the pandemic is over. Maybe I’ll be more willing to help others when no one will know and I certainly won’t be getting any credit, maybe I’ll be more settled and able to just sit with my own thoughts in the midst of a fast-paced and success-driven world. Or just maybe — mercifully — I’ll be able to watch “Hamilton,” and celebrate the incredible contributions of others, while still believing that mine, however small, could be incredible too.