Many of us have been marching to a softer and gentler drumbeat lately. What have you learned during this experience?
By Dennis Rainey
With all its dangers, losses, and suffering, who would have thought that the COVID-19 pandemic would give us a gift?
Yes, there’s fear, doubt, and discouragement at the massive issues of our health, providing for our families and the economy.
For most families, the steep incline and relentless demands of the calendar “treadmill” have lowered and the pace slowed … significantly.
The weekly “rat race” that drove parents and children to the brink has been cancelled. The rats are all quarantined.
Couples are walking together … not in shopping malls, but in neighborhoods … and maybe even talking with one another.
Morning rush hour has been replaced with a quiet 25-second shuffle in house shoes from the coffee pot to the home office.
Gas is cheaper than it’s been in years … I just paid 99 cents a gallon … but who needs it … we’re not going anywhere!
People are expressing appreciation to nurses, doctors, and the cashiers at the grocery store … they are all stunned!
Dogs are confused … What’s happened? My master is always at home!
Cats could give a rip … they don’t care!
The local Apple Store is closed! Is it Armageddon?
And something has mysteriously reappeared in almost every home and apartment … Families are eating dinner together every night. Dads are even doing some cooking!
Over the past couple of months I’ve talked to friends from Seattle to Chicago and Miami, literally coast to coast and everywhere in between. When asked how they were doing, they talk about the hardships they are facing, but they also express wonder at what God is up to, and they describe the gift that they have experienced … TIME!
I call it the “Cadence of Simplicity.”
What will be different?
We are all marching to a softer and gentler drumbeat.
The relentless daily rhythms and grind of life have become simpler. There’s no place to go because of the virus. America’s national pastimes of shopping, entertainment, and sporting events are unplugged.
Simple has given birth to a clearer view of that which is pure and important. Have you found yourself reflecting about how you live? Pondering why we have been so driven by the schedule?
And … listen carefully … have you thought about what will be different in your life, marriage and family when the power is turned back on and the doors of commerce, entertainment, and sporting events fling wide open?
So what convictions have you come to after experiencing the rhythms and benefits of a simpler life style, the Cadence of Simplicity?
I’d like to suggest some life lessons that have become clearer and in focus. To do that, I want to dust your mind and heart with some itching powder from the pages of Scripture.
Ephesians 5:15-17 tells us, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
“Look carefully how you walk …” There’s an African proverb that says, “Your feet take you to where your heart is.” Your heart’s values are seen in the footprints you leave on your calendar.
Life lesson #1: My schedule reflects what I value.
Look carefully at where you’ve walked in the past year, pre-COVID-19. What stands out to you, positive and negative? Add up the number of days and nights you were away from your family last year.
Now “look carefully” at your findings with your spouse and discuss. Lay aside defensiveness, excuses and justification.
Decide where you must succeed. And where you dare not fail.
Barbara and I have done this for years, keeping count of where our feet have taken us. The regular reevaluation of our schedule was hard work. Several times we argued with one another. We didn’t do it perfectly, but we attempted to look carefully and regularly make adjustments.
Arkansas Governor Frank White was a friend who I met with on a regular basis for Bible study. One morning he made a statement that I’ve never forgotten: “To say that you don’t have time is not a statement of fact, but a statement of value.”
Supposedly, America is about to move into another “new normal” when restrictions are lifted. Now that you’ve experienced the Cadence of Simplicity, will you make the necessary observations and decisions that empower you to write a different script? How will your story change?
Life lesson #2: My life will either reflect wisdom or foolishness.
Do you recall the definition of wisdom from last week’s blog post?
Wisdom is godly skill in everyday living.
It’s living life as God designed it to be lived.
Foolishness says, “Have it your way!” … “Ignore God and all those limitations.” … “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Practically speaking, fools live as though God doesn’t exist and has not spoken in the Scriptures about how He designed life to be lived.
As you watch the lights of commerce and activity come on in your community, they will beckon you to do more to “have more” and “experience more.” We are a nation of people who are addicted to busyness. But the stress and pressure of all this activity can sink a good man, a solid marriage, and even a great family.
I’m reminded of the Double Eagle II exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. It was the dream of three men who wanted to be the first to cross the Atlantic in well-stocked gondola lifted upwards by a helium balloon. Leaving Maine early one morning, the crew masterfully rode winds for three nights and two days before their dreams were shattered.
A few hundred miles off the coast of Ireland, they were surrounded by thick clouds and began losing altitude. Thick heavy sheets of ice, weighing thousands of pounds, had formed on their balloon. Their altimeter reflected the grim news … 24,000 feet, then 16,000 feet, then less than 12,000. With no solar rays to melt the ice, the crew were headed toward an unwelcome immersion in the north Atlantic.
The men executed an emergency purge as they drifted toward 8,000 feet. They dumped their ballast and then began tossing all excess weight overboard, like books and equipment.
When they reached 6,000 feet the crew radioed a distress signal, “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!” along with their position. Then they dumped the marine radio and a video camera they had hoped to use to record their landing … all in frantic attempt to stay airborne.
Just as they seemed doomed to die, at 4,000 feet their balloon broke through the grey cloud that had held them prisoner and into the sunlight. The ice melted and the balloon soared as they crossed the coast of Ireland and the English Channel on their way to a safe landing in a cornfield near Paris.
God used that story to give Barbara and me the courage to not only evaluate our altitude as a couple and a family, but also to pay attention to what caused us to soar or to sink.
Purging our calendars from doing too much became a regular discipline as we raised our family while giving leadership to a global ministry.
Is wisdom talking to you right now? Wisdom may be saying, NOW is the time to purge before the country “reopens.” The life, spiritual, and emotional health and legacy of your family depends upon it. How then shall you live as your choices and activities increase?
All this leads me to my final life lesson from the Cadence of Simplicity:
Life lesson #3: Seize the day … Making the most of your time will demand courage.
I believe the most powerful word for a leader today is not what he says “yes” to, but what he says “NO!” to. But sometimes it takes a lot of courage to say “No” when you’re saying it to your wife.
Barbara and I have generally agreed on matters concerning our family. And we have honored one another by not moving forward on a major decision, until we generally are in agreement about the matter.
However about halfway through our 27 years of parenting there was a decision that we could not agree on. The issue was whether we should decide to allow our daughter Rebecca to move from level six to level seven at her gymnastics club.
Level seven would have meant taking Rebecca after school four days a week to train until 8:30 p.m. In addition there were competitions which required more days away.
Barbara wanted Rebecca to excel; she was good at gymnastics and really enjoyed the sport and competition. On the other hand, I was concerned that Rebecca would be spending more hours with her coach than she was with us. I felt strongly that as she moved into the early teen years she needed more time with us and her siblings.
We prayed together about the issue, and the discussion went on for weeks with no resolution. More prayer and neither of us was willing to budge for a couple of months. It was an important decision. I moved slow because I wanted to love and honor Barbara’s feelings and desires for Rebecca.
Barbara felt strongly. I felt strongly.
Finally, a decision had to be made and we’d already agreed much earlier in our marriage that the husband is to be a servant leader and make the decision if we couldn’t reach agreement. So I made courageous decision of what I sensed was best for Rebecca and our family.
Later, as we looked back, all three of us agreed that it really was the right decision.
Warning: Complexity is about to replace simplicity!
Whenever the coronavirus epidemic winds down, essence will be overtaken by distractions and diversions of the “good life.”
And although we aren’t certain what it’s going to look like it, it sure looks like it’s GAME ON! The doors of opportunity are getting ready to be thrown open. Soccer moms are about to resume their taxi service. The Cadence of Simplicity will slowly leave your family … and with it the gift of free time will be scarce once again.
So before the buzz of busyness and hectic pace takes up residence in your family, go out with your spouse on a picnic and share with one another what lessons you’ve learned from your experience with the Cadence of Simplicity.
Then discuss and decide:
What has the review of your past schedule (before COVID-19) revealed to you about your values?
Decide where you must succeed. And where you dare not fail.
What is going to be different in your life, marriage and family?
What activities or commitments need to be courageously purged from your family?
Then close your time by praying for yourselves and your family that you will fulfill God’s purposes.
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