By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
One command Jesus gives his followers comes from Luke 9:23 which says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” As believers, we should all be asking what does it mean to follow Jesus?
In a nutshell, it means living lives that are countercultural. Jesus was hated by the leaders of his time because his teachings went against the wisdom of the world and they still do.
God calls us to serve others, give generously, to be brave, to love the least of these, and to walk by faith and not by sight. Our world pushes us away from all of these values.
Busy schedules, greed, fear, selfishness, and reason are what guide our American life.
So here we are, forced to take a step back from our “normal lives” and given the gift of more free time and a new perspective. Through this interlude, we have been granted the chance to y examine our lives.
We’ve been given a moment to ask questions we were too busy to ask before. You are invited by God who created this world to change course or as the Bible says, we have an opportunity to “repent” which simply means regretting our sin and changing the direction of our lives away from it.
Yet, this is just a pause. The push back into busy, unavailable, disconnected, and stretched-too-thin is coming.
One thing the enemy-of-our-soul loves most is when we are distracted, half-living, and too overwhelmed to let the Kingdom of Heaven truly make an impact on how we live while here on Earth.
If we want to preserve our ability to lean into our families, to keep our newfound appreciation for the things that really matter in our lives, and keep a stronger relationship with God, then we are going to have to create boundaries around what we “say yes to” in the weeks and months to come.
This global shutdown is a chance to “take up our cross and follow Jesus” with fresh passion and focus! There are good gifts we have been given through this departure from “normal.” It’s important to protect the good and not let things that were possibly bad for your life back in.
How do we do this? What does it look like to “set boundaries”? Here are 3 ideas to get you started:
1. Identify What “Taking Up Your Cross and Following Jesus” Looks Like to You and Your Family
What are you living for? Take a moment and really think about what matters most to you. Recently a Pastor posed this question to our church and my husband and I talked it over together to find that our answers vary depending on the hour of the day.
If we are honest our hearts are being pulled out from so many directions on an hour by hour and day by day basis. That is a part of living in a sin-filled world with a body and mind that require God’s renewing power to produce anything worthwhile.
The struggle for the trajectory of our lives is real. If we are to overcome and follow the call of Jesus for our lives in the wholehearted manner he desires, then we have to start making daily choices with our Eternal destination in mind. None of us are perfect at this, this journey is not about perfection, it’s about love and obedience. This is the time to examine what values have been driving your choices and home life.
Is the story of your life a loving one? 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Therefore, the thing that should be most visible about our lives is the love of God pouring out of us.
Has the shutdown made it easier to love your family? Has it revealed ways your work-life balance was not so balanced? Have you been more present for those who need you most through these months of uncertainty? Loving others well is probably one of the most emphasized commands of the Bible (John 13:34).
Protect your new ability to write a loving story with your life long past COVID.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ThitareeSarmkasat
2. Set Clear Boundaries for “Life after COVID”
Practically, as a parent, this may mean prioritizing togetherness over success. Raising connected, loving, and Jesus following kids is not the same as raising successful kids.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cheer our kids on and help them learn and grow but it does mean that our emphasis for our families looks different than that of those around us.
Are your kids so busy with extracurriculars, tutoring, homework, and all other forms of “achievement” that you never feel like you have time to connect? Has this shutdown felt like a relief, tearing you away from the laundry list of “good things” that unknowingly to you has been threatening to tear your family apart?
Why did your schedule feel so outside your control before? What were you working so hard for and did it feel worth it? Does it feel like it added to your home life now that it has all been stripped away?
This is your chance to lay that heavy burden of achievement down (for your whole family) and start fresh, focusing on a new goal, which is telling a Jesus-honoring love-filled story with your life.
Saying “no” to things that just weren’t worth it is going to be hard. It is going to keep you up and night. Surrender on this level comes with anxiety that aims to drive you back to the same old distracting circus life you once lived. A permanent departure from “life as we once knew it” is radical. But carrying a cross is no easy task.
Decide now before schools reopen, work goes back to normal, and sign-ups for all the things begin again what fits in a home that’s aim is first to love one another well and love Jesus.
Pray over the list. Talk with your family about the list. Stick to the list.
Let the desire to follow Jesus guide your schedule over the desire to make all the money, the desire to never fail, the desire to have the most well-rounded (but consequently very stressed out) children in the world, the desire not to miss out on anything, or the desire to keep everyone happy.
God wants us to have joy-filled lives but joy is not the same as getting what we want all the time.
Joy is a deep calm that grows when love fills our homes. Joy is present in the quiet, mundane, the tiny beautiful moments, and we have to protect our joy if we want to be people who experience it.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jonathan Borba
3. Find Community, Accountability, and Encouragement for Your New Life
Remember back to point one where we determined that the struggle for our souls is real. This is why we so need a community of faith-filled others to keep us accountable and to encourage us on our journey. It’s a tough moment for churches, as they can’t gather. It can be easy for those of us who have found a refreshed faith to feel alone.
One plus is that you can now church shop from your couch. With everyone’s sermons online it’s a chance to tune in and determine if a pastor feels like someone you could connect with once restrictions are lifted. Make showing up and finding your spiritual tribe a part of that priority list for post-COVID life.
Don’t hesitate to reach out now and start finding ways to grow a relationship with others through technology.
If you already have a community you are connected to, reach out to those you trust and ask them to help keep you accountable to your new priorities. Changing course is not easy and Galatians 6:2 instructs us to “bear each other’s burdens” meaning we are not meant to carry the load alone. We need the support of others to stay the course.
Many of us are now considering how to engage with the world again safely. We are focusing on how far we should stand from others, ordering face masks, and reading up on all the news to try to wrap our heads around this new threat.
These are important considerations but our “exit strategy” from life under quarantine needs to consider more than just how we are going to protect our physical well being. Priority needs to be placed on how to guard our hearts and homes spiritually as we emerge from our homes and re-enter society.
Allowing a renewed passion for your faith and family be what guides your decisions moving forward. Sacrifice may be required, but what in our fragile lives is really more important than these two things?
Invest in what matters as you reimagine your life in the days to come.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/David Mao
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for the Daily Bible Devotions App, she has work published with Her View from Home, also for the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her blog or follow her on Instagram.