When I was 13, I completed my first novel—start to finish—during an extended blackout. When I was 6, my brother and I managed to create a system of snow tunnels during one of worst snow storms I have seen in my lifetime. Family camping trips throughout my childhood are filled with memories of late night camp fires telling stories and making jokes for hours.
Each of these moments and perhaps countless others that I can’t remember all have two important things in common. First, I didn’t go seeking them out. At first I hated the fact that the power went out for a few days. The constant snowfall created an immediate disruption in our lives and activities that neither myself or my brother was thrilled about. And despite the camping trips being a yearly activity, we approached them more out of obligation than joy—at least at first.
The second thing each of these had in common is that I was, in the end, grateful for them. The power outage not only gave me the victory of finishing a book, it gave me a deeper desire to read and I began to write. The snow tunnel was epic—and we have the pictures to prove it. And I can still remember the stories my dad would make up around the campfire. The memories of that laughter still make me laugh more than 30 years later.
Here’s the common thread. Moments we entered just hoping—better yet aiming—to just get through it so life can return to normal, ended up—even in small ways—changing us forever. It changed our family, our relationships, it sparked our imaginations and creativity, and it forced us to stop long enough to enjoy what was right in front of us. We learned to enjoy the moments—however they were handed to us. Each of them became a gift.
So here we are. Learning this new thing called social distancing, working from home, kids home from school, activities cancelled, nowhere to go, with almost nothing to do. It’s enough to drive some of us crazy. When this whole virus thing began, I remember telling my wife that we just need to buckle down and get through it. I was wrong.
What if we saw this time of unwanted change as a gift?
How in the world could I say such a thing is a gift? People are getting sick, some are even dying. Businesses are being forced to close, people are out of a job, and the economy is teetering on the edge of collapse (ok, maybe that’s extreme). This is anything but a gift. Perhaps even a curse. But perhaps not. I get it, I’m in that same boat. Unemployed and seemingly frozen in time. But I had a friend recently remind me that God is already on the other side of all of this reminding us to trust Him.
As a young preteen, I hated reading. But when the power blew, I grabbed a candle and started reading. After a while I got sick of reading. I would put the book down for a while, but then pick it right back up. I didn’t craft a set of goals once the power went out and purposed to finish a book. Honestly, I was just bored. So I kept reading. Until I saw how far I got and how interested and invested I became in the story. Even after power was restored days later, I continued to read and soon began to write.
You’ve been pulled into the abnormal. Take advantage.
Go outside and walk with your kids, play catch, and make chalk art. It’s good for you and them—body, mind, and soul.
Build legos, play games—find ways to laugh.
Just talk. Your kids have questions about what is happening, questions about God’s role in all of this. Step into those questions.
Read together. The Bible for sure, but other books as well.
If you’re asked to now participate in your child’s education, find some creative ways to do it. Make learning fun. If you’re not sure how, find a homeschool family and ask.
Get creative. Boredom has a way of fostering creativity. Use it and perhaps rediscover your imagination.
These are difficult times. Certainly more challenging than a power outage, snowstorm, or camping trip. But when you can’t change your situation, perhaps your situation can change you—for the better. Don’t put your head down and hope to just make it through, because I can guarantee that you’ll miss the adventure, the lesson, the chance at better relationships and making your kids into stronger disciples.
We all want this virus thing to end and life to return to normal. I just hope when we return, we return to a new normal, a better normal.