Our family quarantine started with a big dose of denial.
As news of Coronavirus came in from other countries we dismissed it. When a handful of cases finally reached the UK, our lives went on as normal. We were busy finishing the wedding favors, booking someone to do our make-up and putting homemade cookies in the freezer for visiting family. Surely this won’t be as bad as they are predicting! Maybe the UK will dodge the bullet.
But denial soon became dread as all our plans unraveled. First, international flight bans decimated our guest list, then venues and suppliers pulled the plug. We did everything we could and even brought the wedding forward twice, hastily rearranging ceremonies and lunch, each time for a smaller and smaller group. Finally, we managed to whittle it down to just the bride, groom, two witnesses, and a willing vicar. With 24 hours to go, we rushed around with gloves and masks, buying supermarket flowers for the bouquet, laughing at the comedy of it all.
But in the end, we just couldn’t outrun government restrictions; weddings were banned indefinitely and we cried.
At this point, our quarantine experience moved to a new stage – acceptance and comfort eating. For the next two days, we wallowed in our pajamas, ate croissants and chocolates and commiserated with each other. Friends and family were wonderful; their texts and phone calls brought a much-needed perspective. We didn’t do much for a couple days but just let ourselves recover, nestled under quilts with mugs of coffee and the cookies from the freezer.
Having accepted the wedding would have to be postponed, comfort-eating soon gave way to the shopping stage. We had bought some extra food and put it in the freezer but we needed a bit more so we headed out, hand gel in our pockets. We filled the fridge with fruit and veg and the cupboards with rice and pasta. We got extra dog food, soap, and medicine.
And this seemed to spur us on to a more productive stage of quarantine. Sure, this crisis was frustrating and unwelcome, but we could use it well. We added exercise to our routine and tried some new recipes. We Skyped family and Zoomed with our church. We pulled together to make the best of it, and, if we didn’t watch the news too much, it was all quite fun, kind of like an episode of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ or a weird summer camp.
That enthusiasm lasted a week and a half.
And now I am not sure what to call our current stage. Maybe the ‘way harder than I thought’ stage, or ‘when summer camp feels like prison’ stage.
Like everyone else in the UK, the novelty of isolation has worn off. Being apart from family and friends is really starting to hurt. We have become lethargic from too many cupboard carbs and irritated with our roommates. The fun food has all been eaten, the news is depressing, our income is fragile.
So what stage is next?
I guess that is up to me.
I could choose the ‘box-set stage’ where I escape into endless episodes of something harmless but pointless Or I could go into the ‘organizing-overdrive stage’, cleaning out drawers and labeling jars of supplies to keep my anxiety neatly in its place.
I could vlog or jog for days. I could batch bake or learn Latin.
Or I could just stop for a minute and take myself back to the time before Covid19 and canceled weddings, and remember what I would have done with a few weeks that were completely empty and quiet.
And then I could do that.
When I first started this blog, I wrote about the secret ingredient of time. So often in my life, it is time that has been the difference between defeat and victory, dilemmas and solutions, confusion and clarity.
So many good things can happen when we have time. And in this strange quarantine-quiet, schedule-scarce existence, that is the one thing I have.
There is no excuse, there are no distractions; I have time. These empty days and weeks are an opportunity. And, Ephesians 5.17 tells me what to do with an opportunity. I must capitalize on it, multiply it, increase its value by using it carefully.
Because hidden in the frustration and fear that this crisis has brought, are moments of God’s grace we have been longing for. Our quiet homes and schedules are actually breeding grounds for spiritual breakthrough. Our financial needs, our worries, and concerns can be the catalyst for going deeper with God than we have ever needed or desired before. This unwanted, unplanned, sad time can lead to open doors, spiritual victories, and life-changing encounters with God if we don’t waste it.
Soon enough some kind of normality will return. Wedding planning, university lectures, and church ministry will all kick in again. There will be good, wonderful, blessed noise; but it will be noise all the same.
So this morning I chose a new stage of quarantine.
I got out of bed like I had something important to do. Because I do.
I watched the sunrise for the first time in weeks and I thanked God that He has made this day.
I embraced the quietness of this time by sitting and listening because I really want to hear.
I accepted the uncertainly by choosing worship because I want to learn to trust.
And for the first time in months, I sat down to write because I remembered that I had something to say.
Oh sure, I will tidy today and do some wash. I will probably exercise and cook some good food. But I won’t let these quarantine days slip through my fingers.
Because opportunities, especially hard ones, are only useful to us if we don’t wish them away.
Seize the day. It is from God’s hand.