What a strange time this is; schools are closing, the church is going online, some of us are working from home while others can’t do so. It is a stressful and anxious time, such as we’ve never experienced before, and brings me a new perspective on what a life filled with uncertainty and disruption must be like for so many parents around the globe.
If I have any wisdom to offer right now, it is simple: we must show the children in our lives that God is here with us, and help them – and ourselves – put faith right in the middle of this disruption. The Way of Love offers us a perfect template to do just that; we can use these deeply faithful practices to build structure and intention into days filled with time and uncertainty.
TURN: Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus
The pause button has been hit for us, but how will we listen and choose to follow Jesus in this time? Instead of telling our children how, we can ask, “I wonder what Jesus might want us to do right now?” Turning to Jesus now might look different for each of us, depending on our levels of stress and anxiety, but putting Christ at the center of our time with our kids can help us sift some calm direction from our fear.
LEARN: Reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus’ life and teachings
Pull out all the bibles in your home, from children’s picture book bibles to the one that’s been in your family for generations and is falling apart. Spend time with them and let your children explore them.
If you don’t have any bibles in your home, don’t worry! There are multiple websites to help. Think of a story you love, read it together, and talk about what it might mean to us today. Luke 17:11-19, Mark 2:1-12, and Mark 4:35-41 are just a few relevant stories for this time.
PRAY: Dwell intentionally with God each day
Prayer in the face of anxiety is surprisingly powerful, and we have time right now to pray more as a family, even if that feels unfamiliar. The Book of Common Prayer, available and easily searchable online, has Daily Devotions for families, as well as Morning, Noonday, and Evening Prayer, plus Compline (a beautiful bedtime service for families). We can also access these through the free Forward Day by Day app. The New Zealand Night Prayer is gorgeously comforting, including the words “what has been done has been done, what has not been done has not been done. Let it be.”
WORSHIP: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God
This one is hard right now, as many of our churches are closed and we are compelled by our faith to distance ourselves from one another in order to protect those who are most vulnerable. A family in my care joined our digital community for Morning Prayer this past Sunday, and afterward sent me a video of their girls ‘doing church’ together, without the need of an adult. I encourage you to find a church that is streaming services and take time to join in as a family*, then reach out digitally to the people you normally connect with at church and exchange loving greetings.
BLESS: Share faith and unselfishly give and serve
Though we are distanced, there are many ways to remain in community. Who do you know who might need a phone call or text because they may be anxious and lonely? Who would love to share stories with your children via facetime?
And, as we share more time together in our families, how can we bless one another, especially in the midst of anxiety and potentially too much togetherness? Several years ago, my boys were at each other’s throats and I was DONE. At my wit’s end, I prayed the prayer attributed to Saint Francis, out loud, in the middle of where they’d been arguing. It stopped them in their tracks and led to a delightfully peaceful afternoon. Ease the boredom with games, puzzles, walks, and sports in the park. Sing and listen to music together, build forts in the living room, hold a dance party in the kitchen; tell stories together; find ways to make memories of joy and laughter in this time.
GO: Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus
This could be the hardest practice right now, as where we can physically go is limited. What does your family care deeply about? Find kid-friendly documentaries and videos about people doing good in those areas. What is each person in your own family ‘best’ at? Give them time to demonstrate and share that talent. As a family, discuss and plan how you will go out to bless others when this time has passed.
REST: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration
We’ve been forced into a prolonged sabbath. Despite fear and disruption, even in the midst of challenges of finding childcare and worrying about financial impacts, where can this time offer you respite? In our climate of almost glorified busy-ness, if you are able, take this time for yourself and your family. Take naps, go for long walks, letting your children lead the way and set the pace. Cook or bake together during a time when you’re normally dashing from school to activities. Remember who your people are, and rejoice in one another.
*Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver is live streaming Evening Prayer, Monday through Thursday at 5 pm MST, and Morning Prayer on Sundays at 10 am MST. If your own church community is not able to do this, we welcome you to join us.
Photo credit: David Marcu from Wiki Commons.