5 Things I’ve Been Learning Through This Crisis

By Brandon Evans:
 
This week, Punxsutawney Sisolak unveiled a shadowy plan to reopen Nevada in phases. The governor announced that we won’t enter “phase one” until we see fourteen days of decline in covid cases, which means we will remain in “phase zero” for at least a few more weeks.
 
 
There’s the old saying, “never waste a good crisis”. I realized that if I’m not growing right now then I am certainly wasting it. So I had to ask myself, what am I learning from all of this?
 
Here are five lessons I’ve been getting homeschooled in during phase zero.
 
1. Busyness is a choice
 
I am one of those people who equate productivity with purpose, and because of this I jump from one item to the next and try to get as much done as possible.
 
I am what I do. That is the lie I believe.
 
The pandemic has simplified life in a number of ways. I don’t have to drive across town several times a day. Social obligations are limited. Sweatpants and hats have had starring roles in my wardrobe.
 
Yet I have found myself feeling as busy as ever.
 
I’ll compulsively scroll.
I’ll commit myself to a new project.
I’ll pace around my house looking for something to do.
 
So it has hit me that I am busy because I want to be busy.
 
This has always been true. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10) has never been my theme verse. But I am recognizing this trait of mine in a new way.
 
So presence with God is single-handedly my greatest area of discipline right now.
 
Silence.
Thoughtful meditation.
Prayer.
 
The Christian life is far more than contemplative practices, but a thriving spiritual life is fed through them. And the battle is not with a schedule, but with a lust for busyness.
 
So I have been working to engage in a mindful presence with God, which leads to the second thing I’ve been learning.
 
2. It’s time for perseverance
 
Distractions are relentless. There is an infinite stream of things I can read, watch, and do.
 
If sheltering-in-place is a race, then we are in the middle miles where the adrenaline has worn off. Perseverance is what will get us through the next season.
 
A lot of my doctoral work has been in the book of Revelation, and what is often lost in the apocalyptic pictures is John’s consistent encouragement to persevere. The one who “conquers” will have eternal life (2:7), will not be hurt by the second death (2:11), will be nourished and transformed (2:17), will rule the world (2:26), will be purified (3:5), will be solidified in God’s kingdom (3:12), and will reign with Christ (3:21). The main pastoral message of Revelation is to persevere in faith until the end, because what is coming is what we’ve been created for.
 
The Christian life already requires great perseverance. How much more now? For me, motivation has been eclipsed by the need for perseverance.
 
The race is far from over. So press on.
 
What’s been interesting has been the increase in engagement churches have been experiencing since the shutdown. Attendance figures (even conservative estimates) skyrocketed up to Easter. But then some have expressed a recent dip, possibly an early warning sign that people will start to fall away.
 
The race is far from over. Press on.
 
We can’t persevere alone. One of the roles of the church is to encourage one another in faith and persevere together. So this leads to the next thing I’ve been learning.
 
3. Virtual church (and life) does not compare to the real thing
 
Our community at Reno Christian Fellowship has stayed connected (and is arguably even more connected now). But virtual church is a shadow of the real thing. I miss the passing conversations. The gatherings. The side hugs. Our church is continuing on mission, but our personal context has been screened off.
 
It is not the same.
 
Zoom fatigue is real. But more so, virtual gatherings can never duplicate the full human experience. We are not just visual and auditory creatures.
 
This is not a new lesson for me. I’ve never believed that life online could replace the real thing. But the virtual life experience has reminded me that even real life (as we knew it) doesn’t compare to true life.
 
Paul says that “we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). The Christian life is a process of Spirit-led transformation from “one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). Then we will have the veils removed, see Jesus face to face, and be transformed into what we were meant to be all along. We have long been living a virtual reality, because we are shadows of our future selves.
 
Virtual church (and life) has made me long not just for real life to resume, but true life to begin. And this leads to my next lesson.
 
4. Our existence truly is a vapor
 
I’ve been fascinated by how quickly and drastically the world has changed in the past six weeks. Life has always been full of sudden and unexpected endings, yet we have experienced a flood of them recently.
 
Prior to the pandemic, we went through a wisdom series at RCF and were confronted with the reality that life is hevel, a vapor. Has the pandemic not been a crystal clear demonstration of this?
 
The transience of life is ever-apparent right now. From the minor details (I was poised to compete for my fantasy baseball championship this year. Now there probably won’t be a baseball season), to the more significant (businesses have dried up), to the worst (lives have been lost.)
 
All of a sudden, we have been reminded of how fleeting our existence is. I have gained a hyper-awareness to this fact.
 
Christians can be unfairly criticized for our belief in life after death, but the truth is that this life is a vapor. We cannot change that. But thankfully, this life is not all there is.
 
So this leads to the biggest lesson I’ve been learning.
 
5. Confusion is calmed by hope
 
The best minds in the world are working to solve the covid crisis. And the only certainty we have is that we are not certain about what’s next or what to do in the meantime (watch this hilariously satirical take on the paradox we’re living in).
 
Right now, there is the temptation to dwell on the present confusion. So a lesson sinking in for me has been how important hope really is.
 
Another neglected aspect of Revelation is its message of hope. The book was written during a time of great confusion. The early Christian churches were small and scattered. Some were persecuted. Others were being enticed. There was also an infection of false teaching, and, given Rome’s ruthless power, seemingly insurmountable odds of the church surviving.
 
But Revelation fills us with hope. Jesus is on the throne now (Rev. 4-5), evil is being dealt with (Rev. 6-18) and he will return (Rev. 19). We are promised a glorious age to come as a result (Rev. 20-22).
 
Hope gives us perspective on the present chaos. And maybe, for me at least, the core lesson from this pandemic is one of perspective. My eyes have been near-sighted since I was a kid. My perspective on life is often the same. I have been too satisfied, or, more accurately, distracted, by transient things lately. And I think the corrective lens for existential near-sightedness is God’s grand story, which is our basis for hope.
 
What’s meaningful will last. What’s transient, won’t.
 
Maybe we can fix our hope on Jesus now, and live each day out of that. Even in the midst of confusion, greater things lie ahead.
 
So what have you been learning? (There is no comment section on this blog, so consider this a rhetorical question. But ask yourself—what have I been learning? Don’t waste a good crisis.)