As we began our unexpected hibernation in the midst of COVID-19, I realized that I needed to make a trip to the store for some essentials before we burrowed in for the next several weeks. Unfortunately, I was going to have to make this trip with my children in tow. So, being the planner that I am, I prepped my children the whole way to the store on how to behave with specific reminders about not touching anything with their tongues, lips, faces, hands, or any other possible body part. If I had a dollar for every time I turned around to find my son’s mouth, face or tongue on a foreign non-food object, I would be a very annoyed person with at least 50 dollars. But I digress.
I tried to express the gravity of these extraordinary circumstances our world is in without creating any unneeded alarm for my children.
Parenting During a Pandemic
They were quite rowdy when we pulled up, so I sternly reminded them that they must be serious and quiet while we were in the store. With that, we proceeded inside and made a beeline for the meat department along with everyone else. While near several other customers, my daughter began to sing very loudly, “It’s the end of the world as we know it” while my son announced to all around him that “The world is ending (theatrical arms included)!”
While reflecting on this moment, I find myself looking at this whole situation through the eyes of my four-year-old and six-year-old. As we are parenting in a pandemic, I wonder how much they will remember from this time. I want to be proactive in conveying the incredible circumstances our world is in while being careful to balance it with the truths we know from Scripture. As I look ahead to this unique season, I want to learn from the lessons God is teaching me right now while remaining available and attentive to those I love despite the many distractions.
What I Want Them to Remember
I can’t control what my kids remember from this time, but I can control some of what I don’t want them to remember. I don’t want them to remember my heightened impatience. I do not want them to remember that I was even more distracted than normal with social media or the news. I don’t want them to remember how I worried over things I can’t control. And I don’t want them to remember how we thought only of ourselves during this time.
So, with that in mind and only with the help of our Savior, I am going to choose to die to self each day; and when I fail and my impatience rears its ugly head, I’m going to confess my sin openly. I am going to choose joy and trust over anxiety, control, and worry. I am going to pray more both individually and collectively with my family and community, remembering that there are so many who are far more deeply affected by this situation than me. I’m going to choose to find ways to engage my kids in thinking of others. And I’m going to choose to be attentive and fun with my kids even when that’s the last thing I want to do.
Lord, Our Eyes Are On You
I recognize that these choices are not simple. I recognize that some of our situations are more dire than others. In 2 Chronicles 20, a great multitude came against Jerusalem. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, admitted that he was afraid, yet he “set his face to seek the Lord” (v. 3). All of Judah followed suit by seeking the Lord’s help together through prayer and fasting. During a situation that probably felt uncertain and seemingly impossible, Jehoshaphat declared before the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12). Too often, I focus on all the horizontal issues around me when all the Lord is asking me to do is look upward. So, even though our circumstances may seem impossible and may truly be very difficult, we have the choice to look upward to the author and perfecter of our faith.
For those of us who have taught the truths of God’s Word to our children for years now, this is an opportunity to live out what we’ve taught and to confess sin openly when we fall short. As parents, we have emphasized the importance of prayer, confession, caring for those in need, thankfulness, obedience, patience, and much more. Yet, if you are anything like me, I sometimes do a poor job of demonstrating these important scriptural values.
Let’s seize this unprecedented time in history to demonstrate what it means to live out these truths we’ve so fervently proclaimed. Let’s show our children, our neighbors, and our coworkers that the best path through trial and uncertainty leads to the foot of the cross. And when we fail at all these lofty goals, let’s go back to the foot of the cross where Christ will meet us in our brokenness. After all, we cannot accomplish any of this without his strength and guidance.
Just as many of us remember exactly where we were when the twin towers fell on September 11, 2001, I have a sneaking suspicion that all of us will walk away with specific memories of this time of sheltering in place. My temptation will be to dwell on all the activities, events, and experiences I will miss, to complain and to worry about things I can’t control. And if I do, I may miss some incredible lessons the Lord can and will teach me. And maybe, just maybe, our children will remember some aspect of how we lived out Nehemiah 8:10, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”