Trial is often another word for opportunity. We are tried to find out what we are made of. We may be revealed to be made of wood, hay, stubble, or pure gold. Going through a trial like the pandemic revealed the church in the United States. It also revealed me and it turns out I’m mostly made of soggy fried chicken and stale coffee.
2020 was an opportunity to show my community what I was made of. It was an opportunity to be a hero of the faith. Instead I whiffed in 3 areas.
1. I Overestimated My Adaptability And The Adaptability Of Others
In March of 2020, like so many others, I began working remotely. Or more accurately, I returned to remote work. Most of my career, I had been working from home and preferred it that way. My home office had a huge beautiful monitor, a desk I built myself, and most importantly of all, a private bathroom.
I had spent 10 years working from home before taking a corporate job and heading into an office every day. When the pandemic hit, we all went home. For me, it was a return to my comfort zone. For most others on my team it was a stressful and isolating new paradigm. It took me about 8 months to understand that.
My team was stressed. They had good attitudes, they continued to be productive, and our division grew and had an excellent year. But by the end of 2020, we were all stretched thin. For the first time in my life, I vacillated between anxiety and frustration. I had heartburn for the first time and it extended throughout the fall. And worst of all, I allowed my stress to isolate me. I didn’t want to be a complainer, but neither did I extend much grace to others who were going through the same thing. I thought I was going to thrive returning to working from home, instead I spent a year annoyed with the people who were most feeling isolated and stressed.
2. I Gave In To Division
Like many people in 2020, I had “OPINIONS” about politics. And my political “OPINIONS” affected my view of the church. I began 2020 by working on a meditation project with my small group, in an effort to be spiritually disciplined and focused on the kingdom of God. Flash forward a few months and I’m focused on Twitter which is nearly the opposite of the Kingdom of God and honestly one of the lesser social medias. I knew this was a bad idea, much in the same way that I know I should floss. Guess who spent too much time online and has poor gum health… yup, this guy.
It doesn’t have to be Twitter for some, it could be any social media, or the news, or even the people you hang out with. But many of us gave in to division. I knew that division is a big sin (honestly, all sin is divisive). But here I was letting the world get me fired up when I could have been doing something better… like flossing.
3. I Whiffed On Loving My Community
This is a little embarrassing but one of my biggest pandemic successes was the fact that I bought early on Game Stop stock, and sold high. That kind of investing is almost always a bad idea because you have to really be lucky to time it right. However, in hindsight it always seems easy. The obvious opportunity during the greatest period of isolation in recent history was to build community with those who were most feeling anxious, stressed, angry, or isolated by the pandemic. I missed that opportunity.
I’m comfortable with community building digitally. I’m happy to video chat, play games online, and due to the fact that I’ve always been a big personal space, non-hugger, I can thrive while social distancing. So why in the world, didn’t I spend time building relationships and loving on people who weren’t cool with all that stuff? Good question! I was too comfortable in my own little office with my own private bathroom (that even has a bidet!). I was like Peter who was willing to die for Christ in the garden, but denied him and lurked in the shadows when things got political. I am an ambassador for the Kingdom of God and I wound up buying a couch for my home office to make it even more comfortable. I whiffed.
Seizing The Next Opportunity
But, good news, everyone! The pandemic isn’t over! Wait, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that I haven’t completely missed the opportunity. True, I’m not buying low and selling high, more like I’m hoping to buy high and sell slightly higher, but hopefully there is a little nugget of gold that can show through by the end of this trial.
The first thing I need to know is to acknowledge that I still have work to do on myself, and to acknowledge that I am not going to fix myself. God uses others to by used by the Holy Spirit. Iron sharpens iron, have you ever tried to sharpen a knife by using that same knife? That sounds like a recipe for needing to buy a new knife (or finger).
Connecting with a community that will keep me accountable will not only help keep me from overestimating my own abilities and letting stress and anxiety force me to buy multipacks of Pepto Bismol, but community will also help prevent division. Here’s the thing about sin; it’s terrible. But the reason that sin is such an infectious, wretched, mess it because it is divisive. All sin is divisive. You genuinely don’t have to be in person to have community, but you really do have to be intentional. All healthy community takes work. Just like marriage, or family.
Christ came, died and rose again to offer us the Gospel so that all things could be united under God. I’ve been full of cracks and I have allowed the world to wedge into those cracks. Division is antithetical to the Gospel. Yes, sin is sin and we can’t overlook it for the sake of community, in the same way that “staying together for the sake of the kids” isn’t how you make a healthy marriage. I have to work to build deep and meaningful community with people that frustrate and annoy me. And to be honest it is a lot harder than just doing my own thing. But here’s the thing… every single fruit of the Spirit requires community. I can’t exercise patience without someone to be patient about. Even joy is the kind of joy found in Philippians and in humbly serving one another. I can’t be a Christian by myself.
I am determined to seize the next opportunity. While the world continues to argue about masks and vaccines, I will do whatever I can to show them the Kingdom of God. Honestly, I might even floss sometimes. Maybe it will make my dentist’s day just a little bit brighter.