A couple of weeks ago we received notice that our trash service was only going to be able to pick up totes on trash day. Reason being, people in previous weeks had inundated the trucks with mountains of trash by their curbside. With a shelter-in-place order in effect, everyone was cleaning their house and taking out more trash than the garbage company could keep up with.
We are living through a unique time. For the first time in recent history, the world seems to have come to a screeching halt. Our current circumstances are very different from what had been our cultural norm for a lot of years. People no longer able to run through their day, trying to accomplish as much as possible in a 24-hour period.
Francis Chan, in a recent video message, compared what has happened in the world to the running on a treadmill. It’s called, “Be Still and Know that I Am God.”
He shared how kids in Hong Kong grow up on a treadmill. Their parents sign them up for the best preschool. They want their kids to crawl and walk before everyone else. They work to put their kids in the best primary and secondary schools in order to get them into particular universities. Why? So that they can get a job where they can continue to run fast, ultimately wind up exhausted, and eventually continue the same cycle with their kids.
The problem is, we weren’t created to run on a treadmill. We were created for a deep relationship with God.
And it is difficult to have a deep relationship with God, while running to keep up with or move past others in our society.
Dallas Willard called silence and solitude the two most radical disciplines of the Christian life. Solitude is the practice of being absent from people and things to fully be with God. Silence is the practice of quieting every inner and outer voice to better hear from the Lord. Henri Nouwen said that “without solitude it is almost impossible to live a spiritual life.”¹
We were designed to have a deep walk with God, but we often choose to simply pursue experiences and accomplishments in life. It is easy to be distracted and not pursue deep intimacy with God and instead just run. We run on a treadmill and raise our kids to run on one too.
But what has happened in the past couple of months? Almost every single treadmill has stopped. For some people, this change is driving them crazy. Why? Because all we know how to do is run, run, run…We want to fix the machine, because we have to get back to running. Some people think they are losing ground. However, just because it was “normal” doesn’t mean it was right.
My hope is this time provides us with greater clarity, knowing we ultimately cannot control our own lives. But even more than that, we have a God who “yearns jealously” for us (James 4:5).
What if, God loves us so much, that He has stopped everything for the purpose of spending more time with us?
What if God allowed all of our treadmills to be unplugged so that we could be still and know Him, I mean really know Him (Psalm 46:10)? Did He mean to use the break from our treadmills that Covid-19 presented for our good (Genesis 50:20)?
A quote I came across several weeks ago really convicted me. The quote came from Leonard Ravenhill who said, “If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man.” Wow!
As a person who enjoys running life on a treadmill, I am thoroughly convinced God means for us to live differently: to enjoy and truly delight in Him. You may not be a minister, like Ravenhill or Shellie and myself, but you might still have this compulsion to do more for God when in the end, maybe God simply wants us to be more with Him. Or maybe you’re simply looking to accomplish and experience all you can in life, not understanding that God is jealous for us and His desire is ultimately to be with us. This is how life started in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2 & 3) and how it will end in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 22). God dwelling with His children in paradise.
But what happens when the world plugs those treadmills back in? Julio Gambuto, in his article, “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting” points out that “Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we ‘open back up’ and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal.”² Although I do not agree with everything in the article (or some of its language :-), I do think the writer is correct in his thinking, “Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again.”
In essence, powerful forces will be urging each of us to get back on the treadmill without regard to what’s best for us, our families, our neighbors or our communities.
I think the worst thing we can do is to get frustrated and to try to fix everything, just so that we can get back on that treadmill. What I would encourage everyone to do before turning the treadmill back on is to think deeply about what we want to allow back into our lives.
This is a chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and sacred opportunity to only bring back those things that truly make our lives richer and eternally meaningful.
The question is, will we do it? Or will we listen to the marketers and switch the treadmill back on in hopes to return to life as we knew it?
Questions Shellie and I are asking include:
- How will we spend our family time on nights and weekends?
- How will we continue to engage and bless our neighbors?
- Who will we choose to spend more time with?
- What activities will we encourage our kids to participate in?
- What activities will we no longer engage in?
- What will we watch and listen to?
- What will we eat?
- What will we spend our dollars on?
- What events will we attend?
We would encourage you to have those same conversations. We may not be able to throw out the treadmill with the trash, but maybe we should consider a rummage sale when this is all over.
We’d Love to hear from you!
What will you choose to add back into your life when the shelter-in-place mandate is over? What will you no longer participate in? Share your comments below.
1 Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. pg. 148.
2 Gambuto, Julio. “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting.” Medium, Forge. April 10th.
Food for thought