"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. . .a time to embrace and a time to refrain. . . .He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5, 11)
If you are like me, your emotions have been all over the place for the past few weeks, and it sounds like there is plenty more to come. In light of that, one of the best responses I've heard to craziness and chaos of the times we are living in came from a dear friend: "I'm just asking God what it looks like to love well in light of all that's happening in the world right now." What a great question! One I think we all need to be asking ourselves.
What does it look like for me, specifically, to love well right now? Particularly at a time when the medical professionals are telling us that the best way (physically) to love people right now, especially those who are most vulnerable, is to stay away from each other. It seems so counterintuitive. After all, we were made out of community (the Trinity), for community (each other), so how can we live in community when we are apart? Another great question.
We have the tendency to define love as presence, and we are taken aback when the most loving thing we can do is be absent. But what if physical absence opens the door for a new kind of presence? Jesus said, "It is better for you that I go away, for unless I do the Counselor will not come." (John 16:7) His absence was setting the stage for a new and lasting presence. I get that. I have experienced times and season when it felt like my presence was more of a hindrance than a help. It seemed to be getting in the way of what God wanted to do, rather than making space for it to happen. During those seasons I have had to take a step back. It is not a bad thing, it's just different. After all, hasn't he made everything beautiful in its time? Thus, physical presence is not always necessary, and absence is not always bad. It is just making room for some new way of being to be born among and within us. Sometimes the very best thing we can do for each other is to pray, and let God be the one who shows up in the lives and hearts of those we love. Maybe we are not actually as essential as we think we are. Who knows, maybe God is leading us toward a season of absence in order that he might be more present.
Having said that, we also live in a day and age when physical absence doesn't necessarily mean relational, emotional, or spiritual absence. Now, more than ever, we have so many ways to be with each other without having to be physically present. Maybe God wants us to be creative and open and totally dependent on him. This new season creates both challenges and opportunities. If the most loving thing we can do for each other right now is stay home, then what does it look like to love each other well as we are doing that? Honestly, I have no clue. The answer to that question is up to you and God. I have been incredibly encouraged, however, by some of the brainstorming and conversations I've heard about. It seems like many are attacking the situation rather than bemoaning it, which is a great thing given the opportunity to love people at a time when we all are so incredibly vulnerable. What better time to ask the question of what it means to love well.
For me that opportunity involves investing more time and space and energy in writing. It is always something I say I want to do, yet, when push comes to shove, other things end up getting in the way. Now I have no excuse. Besides, one of the things I have really noticed over the past ten years has been the fruitfulness of the time and space invested in that area. By far the comments I hear most often are those about how the time and space offered by my books (and that is all God and none of me) helps people connect with Jesus in a wonderfully intimate way. And let's be real, that has nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with God's faithfulness to enter in, once we offer him the time and space. My only hope is that my writing helps that process, rather than getting in the way. The speaking and retreat leading and traveling around being with people are really fun, but are mostly the result of what God has already been doing in the lives and hearts of folks through the books. The rest is gravy. My presence at those events and venues is not even necessary. He has been working long before I arrived on the scene, and much more powerfully, I might add.
So my challenge and opportunity during this strange season we find ourselves in, is to continue to learn how to engage folks hearts through writing. It is to pay careful attention to what God is doing deep in my soul and to get it down on paper (or computer) in such a way that it produces the same type of space for God (and his word) to engage others.
What about you? What is God calling you to in this new season? How is he asking you to love well? And what does that specifically look like? It might look really different from the way it has for the last months or years of your life and ministry, but that's okay, for he has made everything beautiful in its time.