My wife and I had the strangest experience the other day. We looked at our calendars and realized that the next two weeks were booked solid. We knew then and there that we needed to make some decisions.
As vaccines have become more readily available, the positivity rate has decreased, people have made safe practices a part of their social gatherings, and more and more people are slowly re-engaging life in public.
And that means one thing: busyness is eager to take over again.
Whether it’s playdates, sports, dinner with friends, Bible studies, grocery shopping, and the like, as the weather warms up and the world reopens, busyness is ready to fill the void. Before COVID hit, the most common response from people when you asked them how they were doing was, “Busy.” That is one form of normal I’m not eager to re-engage.
Here’s the good news: we don’t have to return to that life.
As Christians we are to be a people of work and rest, (Genesis 1-2) redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16) as good stewards. While having a full calendar isn’t wrong, we are encouraged to leverage the time with which we’ve been entrusted to further Jesus’ purposes with healthy, humanizing rhythms. This is how God designed us, and therefore, it’s part of God’s plan for our flourishing.
Here are five tips to wisely re-engage a reopening world.
1. Schedule Quarantine Favorites
You don’t have to say “yes” to everything that was before. One of the gifts of this last year is the opportunity to make significant adjustments to how you fill your calendar and the values that shape your life.
Two quarantine favorites for me were grace blocks and dates in our backyard.
A grace block is a pocket of time in each day where you schedule nothing. Yes, nothing. It’s a space that allows other projects you’d underestimated to spill over, and so give yourself grace in the form of margin to finish out without stressing out. For me, I block about an hour a day for a grace block. It’s so helpful to recognize I can’t foresee everything, but I can predict my finitude and need for grace. Grace blocks are something I’m holding onto in my calendar.
Next, my wife Allie and I discovered we love date nights in the backyard. Before we used to stress about trying to get out of the house, organize a babysitter, and get back before too late. Now, we can put our kids to bed and sit under the stars in the city in our backyard with a glass of wine and talk for hours. Who knew date night was so easy?
I know for some of you these seem rudimentary, but that’s the point. What are 2-3 good things that have made it onto your calendar during COVID and quarantine that you want to keep? Schedule your quarantine favorites going forward.
2. Keep Going Deep with a Few
In a world of endless Facebook friends and Twitter followers, one of the greatest insights I received in college was the encouragement to cultivate a few close friendships. This became a necessity as our COVID circles grew smaller and our relationships with a few folks went deeper.
As everything opens up again, you don’t have to sacrifice the newfound depth you’ve found in the relationships around you. You don’t have to say “yes” to everyone, but be sure you have reserved the time and space for those relationships that are especially meaningful and life-giving.
I have absolutely LOVED the amount of family time I’ve been able to have with my wife and kids this last year. We’ve locked down some rhythms that are high points in my week, and I have them on my calendar now so I keep time reserved for these very important people.
Now, as things open, if you want to still go deep but also expand your relational horizons, it wouldn’t hurt to add just one more chair to a deep group of friends. Who says you can’t have it all? A new friend and deep ongoing relationships. Add one more person at a time to the social circle, and who knows what could happen?
3. Continue the Creativity
You don’t have to follow the predetermined path laid out by our consumerist culture before the pandemic. I’m all about going out to eat at local restaurants and traveling the continental United States, but you don’t have to spend a ton to continue to connect with others and have fun.
Find hiking trails with family and friends, go on picnics at one of our city’s green spaces, or pull out those board games for an afternoon in the park. These are exceptional avenues for fun.
My family is excited about Parkopalooza. Now I did not make this up, I’m stealing it. But the idea is that you spend an afternoon visiting parks across our city.
- Do a little research. You can drive around to various parks or look online. Are there some with hidden playgrounds or unique fun setups?
- Map it out. Plan how much time you have to spend and how much time you want to spend at each park.
- Hit it hard. Run, slide, jump and swing at the planned park for the allotted time. Then, no matter how much fun you’re having, go to the next. It’s an adventure after all! Part of the fun is just exploring the new parks.
Parkpalooza is just one example of creative fun in the sun. Keep exploring and trying new ideas.
4. Remain Adaptable
As much as Zoom calls may wane from their prominence, flexibility, patience, and empathy aren’t going anywhere. If anything, as all of our tanks are running low after a year of high adaptability, these Christlike traits are going to be more important than ever.
So as the travel bug or the desire to re-engage in the world creeps in, remain adaptable. As Christians, we of all people know that we are to hold our plans loosely. God is in control, not us, and so whenever we make plans, we entrust them to the Lord (James 4:15). This posture keeps us patient and flexible.
As I dream about the faithful presence of the church in the coming years, one of my hopes and desires is that we make adaptability and patience a part of the forever new normal for us! The posture of patience, grace and gentleness is the Christian calling, not a COVID pastime.
5. Prioritize Giving of Yourself with Others
Andy Crouch, Christian author and speaker who has brilliantly been spot-on throughout the pandemic, has been looking back to help us look forward. What does he notice? After the Spanish Flu of 1918, we had the roaring twenties. People were tired of being cooped up. They just wanted to party already, and frankly, that wasn’t a high point for the church.
I think Andy Crouch is on to something in that one of the greatest temptations that awaits us in these next couple of years is to get out and LIVE life to the fullest! By that I mean, we may be tempted to indulge our desires, give in to our every whim, and let our appetites and wants guide our lives now that we’ve been unleashed.
Nothing could be further from what we see in Jesus and our calling to follow Him.
Rather, what would it look like to GIVE life to its fullest?
What would it look like if as restrictions decrease, we leveraged that empowerment to take on the posture of servants? The basin and towel has always been a marker of the follower of Jesus, and maybe as things reopen we should prioritize giving of ourselves rather than treating ourselves.
That may mean a different posture at work, an area of repentance at home, continued patience with your church, engaging in a blood drive in your community, serving at your church (which means returning to your church in person), or donating time toward serving with a ministry partner (find our list here). While the what is unique to you, this calling isn’t.
Don’t let life grow like a weed, or it will take over. Redeem the time and be intentional, and decide ahead of time how you will re-engage a reopening world.
Who knows how this year will impact the next season of your life? Be wise. Be a good steward. It’s not just your calendar. It’s your life. And remember it actually is His.