In the days before I had a music streaming service on my cell phone, I listened to music on a stereo. The device held three compact discs, and I was able to listen to the CD’s in succession until all three played through. On one occasion, I discovered that the pause button on the stereo was blinking on and off. Apparently, a few days earlier I had paused the music and then never got back to resume playing it. The CD’s and stereo were no worse for the wear after the extended pause, save for the wasted electricity of leaving the device on.
There have been many times during this past year when life has felt like an extended and unnerving pause. The pandemic hiatus impacted all aspects of my life: work, eating in restaurants, haircuts, time with family and friends, travel, sporting and musical events, and so much more. As hard as the pause has felt, not all of it has been negative. I celebrate that the planet was allowed to heal a bit as people moved around less. After downsizing and moving last year, I have been afforded the time to unpack and sort boxes. Healthy eating was made simpler as I found more time to plan and cook meals.
The greatest benefit of the pandemic pause was finding more time to spend going deeper with the Creator. Perhaps it was quarantining by myself, with only my pup to keep me company. Yearning for companionship, I gravitated towards God in quiet time and prayer. The same God took walks with me on the trails in my area, and I was keenly aware of the beauty of the changing seasons. Paddling on the lake opened my eyes to the wildlife and diverse shoreline, ever grateful for the complex beauty of creation.
On this side of the pandemic, I am better able to reflect on the extended pause. It was an incredibly long road to get to this point. Tears were shed regularly out of sheer loneliness. Enduring numerous sleepless nights were caused by wondering if I had done everything I could to prevent the spread of the virus, as an essential health care worker. Then there were the many plans made and canceled due to an uptick in the COVID-19 cases which caused me deep disappointment. All told, it has been a really difficult year.
As we are nearing a point where the extended pause is coming to it's conclusion, I find my own well-being is improving drastically. For me, the spring weather is oh so life-giving. I am able to spend more time with others, and even occasionally inside when precautions are taken. The outdoor activities I enjoy such as bicycling, kayaking, and hiking in the woods are back in play. Even weekend get-aways are finally possible. Ever guilty of trying to milk every moment I can from a beautiful, sunny, spring day, I discover I am pausing for shorter periods of time with God, and it's noticeable.
God deserves an extended pause in my day. Time where I carve out space to pray, listen, read, and reflect about what God desires for my life. Allowing time to wait for God to act. When I shorten the time I pause with God, my ability to problem solve and cope with challenges diminishes with it. The less time I spend with the Creator, the less centered I am in my work and in the daily grind. The relationships in my life, both new and established, also seem to take a hit. I tend to allow my priorities to get off kilter. I short-change those who need my attention in exchange for those who are better left alone. Without this essential time with God, I discover I am losing myself to people and activities that pull me away from God.
The country is slowly opening up as more people are getting vaccinated. Like so many, I too am eager to attend outdoor festivals, farmer’s markets, and other events. Yet the learning of this past year should not be forgotten. Patience in letting down my guard with the safety guidelines in place, intended to slow the spread of the virus, are still important. Plus, I grew greatly in my spiritual walk, and I don't want to lose the ground that has been manna for my very soul.
I love the connection I have developed with God. It keeps me focused. Allows me to pray continually throughout my day without any pomp and circumstance. I call on God's guidance, and I feel the assurance that I have it. And so, to keep that life-giving connection, I will continue to pause with God before I start my day. Prioritizing the quiet time sets the stage for all I have to accomplish. To do so will keep me grounded in what is truly important, and it will assist me in weeding out the things that distract me from God’s calling for my life.
During the extended pause this past year, what benefits did you experience? Were you afforded the time to take up a new hobby or return to one from years past? Did a closet or extra bedroom, cluttered with unused items, finally get a cleaning? Was there more time for reading and growing in your spiritual walk with the Creator?
As more and more activities unpause, it will be important to continue to set aside time for your own personal growth and time with God. After all, Jesus modeled, in His ministry, the need to get away and connect with God. “During that time, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and He prayed to God all night long.” (Luke 6:12) It’s okay to pause sometimes, for when we do, we carve out time to reconnect with ourselves and with the Creator.
Creator God, I know You desire for me to pause regularly so I stay anchored to You. Help me to prioritize the many things in my life, especially those that threaten to pull me away from my relationship with You. Continue to guide me in all aspects of my life. Thank You! Amen.
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