Making the most of isolation
By Jon Lindsay, 21 Mar 2020
Making the most of isolation
I went to work on Tuesday morning at 7:00. By 8:40 our family had to self-isolate. Having been pretty sure that we’d be fine through this whole situation I suppose it’s a welcome lesson to me in humility. Hey, who doesn’t need that!?
I was sent home from my work, quite rightly, when I started with symptoms from the government's watchlist. In light of Monday’s government briefing we contacted our kids’ school immediately, and by 10:00 we were all sat together at home.
So, stretching before us were 14 days of…
Well, we’ll see.
Whether symptoms progress and we are all bed-bound or if this is simply a wise and safe precaution: that’s outside of our control.
But what we can control is this: we want to make the most of our isolation.
First off, a sadness. As we sat around the dining table at 10:00 Tuesday morning, we had to explain to the kids that we wouldn’t be able to meet with our church family for the next two weeks. This is our chief sadness at this time. The physical gathering of the local church is so important. Church by the Bay, in a very real sense, is our family. Sometimes Hebrews 10:25 can be all too easily thrown-around, but at this point we are going to really feel the pain of that. Our online Elders' Meeting on Tuesday night was very hard - the absolute last thing we wanted to do was cancel the Church by the Bay gathering. Isolation is, for a season, limiting our involvement with the body of Christ. “Come Lord Jesus.”
But this is how we are hoping to redeem the time of our isolation, in no particular order.
Start as you mean to go on
As soon as we were all at the dining table on Tuesday morning we wanted to do two things:
- Be clear with the kids about what’s happening and why, and what implications there will be
Our kids are 3, 4 and 6. So we opened the baking drawer and ‘infected’ each other by shaking hands covered in cocoa to show why we need to be careful about personal hygiene. We talked about government advice. But wonderful Caz, Church by the Bay’s families worker, said on Sunday that “everyone is worried about how clean our hands are, but we know it’s our hearts that really need cleaning.” This has stuck with our kids, and we prayed together.
We opened Psalm 91, and discussed that while disease and “plague” (I know, strong language!) may come, God has removed the evil from it (see verse 10 in the ESV, rather than a NIV). So we know and trust that God will use these things not for evil, but “for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
We then read this prayer from Every Moment Holy, asking the Lord to help us make the most of our Sick Days for His glory.
Breakfast Bible Time
I leave for work before the kids get up in the morning, so we are really excited to be able to read and pray together at the start of the day rather than at dinner time. Or, if Child One gets his way, as well as at dinner time! Oh, and before bed. Phew! It’s good to be kept on your toes.
Why is this so good? We start the day together, gathered around God’s revealed will, and can talk about the rest of our day (all its coming challenges and joys) in the light of His sovereignty.
We enjoy little liturgies that help us through our day as a family.
Every night: “Sleep well. I love you. Remember the Lord.”
When they’re troubled: “Do you see my eyes? Do you see that I see you? Do you know that I love you? Do you know I love you when you can see me? Do you know I love you when you can’t see me? Who else loves you like that? Rest in His love.”
And others besides.
So we are going to enjoy our little liturgies that start to appear over these weeks to teach our hearts who is really in control.
Man alive, we are going to read our faces off!
Wait…did you hear that? I’m sure it was Middle Earth beckoning us!
"Bodily training is of some value", wrote the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 4:8), so we've built family exercise into our afternoon. When you're cooped up all day sleep can be an elusive friend, and exercise really helps. And, as Paul goes on, it does have lessons for our godliness too!
Eating all our meals together
Usually we eat breakfast together once a week (Saturday morning) due to work or one of us rushing off to serve early at church. We eat lunch together twice a week. We eat tea together maybe 4 or 5 times a week. Not a great average.
For the next few days every meal is a Family Meal!
And you just can’t underestimate the quality there is in that. Sometimes meal time is a wrestle, but every conversational choke-hold and body-slam is worth it.
Lord, please redeem our feasting.
Life is very fast paced. And while I will be working at home daily, the change of pace that isolation forces upon us will not go unappreciated. I really enjoyed this in an email from Randall Goodgame the other day:
“It is sad to miss things, but it’s also an opportunity to rest. Remind them of all the stressful times we often experience running from place to place, and how just like a snowstorm forces us to stop and rest, this is also an unexpected opportunity to read a book or play checkers or go ride your bike.”
Although Henry (4) beat me at Settler’s of Catan…I can’t say that is restful!
We love singing together in our house. Will enjoys making up hymns, Henry enjoys memory verses, and Amelia loves some big doctrine from Sovereign Grace. The “noble art of music” keeps our hearts tethered to Home much more than we realise.
Before this kicked off, we were talking about how we might offer support to our neighbours if they had to isolate.
So now what can we do? Maybe we will write to a few church members every day. Well, write a letter and then email it. It’s not a great time for us to be licking stamps after all.
But isolation removes neither the possibility nor imperative to encourage one another.
We are also going to work with two other households on our street to offer and build support to others who might find themselves in a similar position, and to offer prayer for those who feel the need for it.
I’m not sure why, but our kids enjoy working on domestic jobs together! We’re going to write a list of cleaning jobs which, together, we take responsibility for each day to give us a safe and healthy home.
We will also be wiping door handles and keyboards, mopping floors, changing bedsheets, splitting logs, painting a bathroom (don’t worry, the paint is already in the cellar!), clearing wardrobes, baking, drawing, writing stories…
Part of raising kids is showing them disciplines for life. Now we have the time to do it better!
Sharing adult disciplines
I still have plenty of work to do for my job, which I’m looking forward to. And online Elders’ meetings are going to be a regular occurrence as we learn to respond to this national situation. And Hannah’s hard work and diligence in caring for people and managing our house are still whirlwind fast. So we get to explain and show just that little more of adult life to the kids while they’re not at school.
Redeeming the time
Everyone’s isolation is different. But no-one’s isolation needs to be viewed as wasted time. It’s a question of what we are aiming to invest in. We look forward to hearing many stories from the Church by the Bay family about how these weeks have been a means of grace.
Isolation, like the rest of the Lord’s world, is redeemable. And in the Lord’s grace nothing is wasted. Please pray that through all that’s going on believers around the world would:
- consider the Lord more than they do the news
- find repose rather than stress
- “value others above themselves”
- continue to invest in eternity even while the present feels so in flux
Remember that much can be achieved for the Lord in homes, whatever our home life looks like.