Guess where I’m writing this piece from? Home.
I’ve written and journaled from the tops of buildings, from subways, from Pakistani restaurants, beaches, airplanes, African desert tribes, and more, but all those juicy locales have been snatched away recently. My country issued a round-the-clock stay-at-home order several days ago. The regular challenges of doing life on the field have been replaced by a challenge that I share with many of my partners back in America: how to remain spiritually focused and fruitful while in isolation.
Here are six tools my wife and I have found useful.
Make a schedule… with breathing room
An article from Northwestern Medical echoes what Heather and I have found to be truer than ever over the past couple weeks, that the body functions best on a consistent routine. The key is intentionality. I would challenge you to incorporate times for connecting with God in prayer and put that in the spots of your schedule when you are at your best… and times you might need a rest. These blocks in our routine have been a saving anchor for us in times when minutiae blurs the lines between days of quarantine.
Being isolated and being stressed are a royal recipe for bringing inner issues to the surface. Everyone seems to be in a state of heightened emotions during this time. I believe strongly the Lord is going to use this time to allow pains and doubts to surface in you that would not in ordinary seasons so that he can meet them with his grace and mercy. Rather than letting your emotions slowly work you over, choose to work through them by journaling. Write down your pains, aspirations, fears, and faith-declarations, inviting God into the messy process. The command to keep a spiritual journal was the first time I remember hearing the voice of God at age 12. Over the past 18 years, no spiritual discipline has served me more or as consistently as taking time to journal.
Set goals… and make some of them fun.
My wife is a huge list person. If she can get her objectives written down, it seems the day goes much smoother, and she feels more accomplished at the end. The items can be as major as organizing your closet or garage, or they could be as minor as finding a new worship album. I encourage you to incorporate trying something new. My wife and I recently found some ballroom dancing instructional videos on YouTube and tried them out in our small living room!
“For where two or three are gathered” … digitally.
I have to believe Matthew 18:20 applies not only to those in a physical room together but also those joined through telecommunications. I’ve had calls with friends and family back in America as well as disciples and mentors here in my country in the Middle East. Our team has been continuing to prioritize prayer, but it looks a little bit different in the season. Several times a week, we get on a Zoom call with each other and pray together. I have to admit that it’s not the same as being in the same room with one another, worshiping in the same hall or sitting across the table from one another, but it definitely reiterates that I am not alone in Christ. That brings me to the final one…
Prayer, the greater work.
You’re going to feel ineffective and confined during this time. I understand; I have fought it already; it’s inevitable to have feelings of uselessness crop up, but that doesn’t have to set the tone for our weeks of (relative) confinement. I think it’s a very important time to invest in your prayer life and to engage in more often and longer times of intercession. Nearly every Christian would agree with me when I say that prayer is the most powerful thing that we can do, but when we look at our lives, do we actually live like that’s true? No, most of us organize our time as if prayer is like the spare change we’d tip a Waffle House waitress. Should prayer remain a dutiful afterthought?
Embrace meditation… and maybe yoga.
Silence is just plain uncomfortable! It’s extremely unnatural in our fast-paced society, replete with means of instant gratification, to set aside time to stop and do nothing. Yet, I consider it to be indispensable and fulfilling one of Jesus’ most important commands—to abide in him. Meditation isn’t just for monks or Buddhists. It’s a valuable time for exercising a very important muscle: waiting. It’s not the act of emptying of our minds but filling it with truth and thankfulness. It also sets the tone for our day—not to be frenzied with stress or numb with boredom, but rather mindful and aware.
Do you sink into a stupor whenever you get still and quiet? Try it from a different angle, one with a little movement. To put a unique twist on meditation, my wife and I have been doing yoga exercises each day (don’t worry; there’s no chanting on the YouTube videos we do it with). Yoga has been great for me because it combines physical movement, mindfulness, and attention toward breathing. I feel it has helped a little bit with some of the chronic pain I have dealt with for some time.
So, what’s your first action step? Comment below to let me know!