How has your life changed because of the Covid Quarantine?
I miss social contact, especially with my children, grandchildren, and friends of my right hand. I’m an extrovert for god’s sake!
I have loved ones who have lost jobs and others who have been contaminated or may have. I’m considered high risk. I’m confused about how this disease is transmitted and what precautions really help. I’m concerned about the economy.
So far, I’ve managed to navigate all that. Until last Sunday. As you know, I retired from the church pastorate. Therefore, my commute from the kitchen to my in-home office with coffee mug in hand is unchanged. The restrictions may be better to write in!
Calling and purpose have been themes God has worked on with me most of my life. And last Sunday I felt the ache of emptiness from my career shift in a way I could not dismiss. Listening to my pastor over the computer screen, I felt a keen loss of purpose. A depressive impotency. I remembered the days immediately following 9/11. Though new in Vail, CO, I co-led a memorial service and thousands of people gathered below the idle ski lift to hear of God’s hope. I counseled people from NYC, Kansas, Ireland, Hong Kong, Denver, and California. I wrote an article for the Vail Daily. I was needed. I had purpose.
The Pregnant Pause
In that moment I recognized I’ve been living what in my counseling practice I’ve called a pregnant pause.
We often call these blank spaces in life awkward and fill them with denial, jokes, trivia, busyness, and noise. Some call them dead air as if silence could kill us.
But what if we embraced this time of unknowing and waiting? What if we viewed this quarantine as a precursor to new life: as a pregnant pause?
When the Red-Headed-Wildflower carried our three children we joked about “having one in the oven.” Pregnancy is a long, mysterious process. There is no microwave oven for a baby. Two people mix their love and genetics and nine arduous months later a never before dreamed of human bursts from between a woman’s legs and changes the world. Forever!
A pregnant pause also. And there is no instant answer. The present fear and silence and lostness is impregnated with future hope and mystery and unknowing—to birth something entirely new. And change the world forever.
Unless we abort it.
History is replete with pregnant pauses birthing new life from grief-filled loss. You’ve read no doubt about Shakespeare This may be the most frightening and profound pregnant pause any of us have experienced. writing King Lear while the theaters were closed during the plague in 1603. And Newton was sent home in 1665 from Cambridge University during the next plague. Newton developed so many of his ideas in that time many refer it as his “year of wonders.”
Music too. Beethoven and Mozart used the musical pause to instruct an orchestra to wait while a soloist performs. This musical pause indicates something unexpected, creative, unique, and unreproducible is coming!
Practice the Pregnant Pause
But we are as fearful of the pause as we are of invisible viruses. Like Pavlov’s dogs we have been conditioned to abhor and fear silence. We need practice at it.
I advise engaged couples to practice a pregnant pause by setting aside a day for no mention of dollars, flowers, venues, and menus. I hope this practice then develops into a lifetime comfort with mystery, unknowing, and silence.
Our current pregnant pause is deeper and more dangerous than deferring maintenance talk and means something different to each of us. Whatever God wants to speak into the silence, this quarantine is amplifying it. Don’t muffle it with noise and busyness. As for me, I’ll wait and pray for what God is impregnating me with.
Dark Night of the Soul
Saint John of the Cross named these pregnant pauses “Dark Nights of the Soul” or at least “Dark Nights of the Senses.” Times when God’s “consolation,” very real presence in daily comforts seems to vanish. Instead we experience “desolation.” We fail to find God in any aspect of life, though God is still there. The void screams. Silence echoes back.
There is, however, no accusation of us from God in these Dark Nights. “Who sinned to cause this?” the disciples asked Jesus of the man born blind. “No one,” Jesus answered. “It’s for the Father to redeem.” [ECSV Eugene C Scott Version]
The purpose of Dark Nights are to wrest our grip from the easy, familiar routines and answers in life.
You can find ample things to do to keep life as normal as possible in these dystopian days. Instead of doing, what if God is calling us to some kind of undoing?
After all, that is what Jesus called the disciples into, a three-year long pregnant pause. A total undoing of how they understood and operated in life. That time then culminated in Holy Week and the death of Jesus (and their dreams and expectations) on the cross and a painfully silent pregnant pause of 24 hours before his resurrection and transformation of all of life forever.
God wants to use these dystopian days to transform us.
This may be the most frightening and profound pregnant pause any of us have experienced. How has your life changed because of the Covid Quarantine? What is your personal pregnant pause among our world-wide one? Fear not! God has been here before. God stands ready, waiting for us—the orchestra—to pause and let the Soloist play. Unfortunately, if we play on, heedless to the signal, we leave God no room to perform. The musical score lies before us. Our participation with God in the silence can transform our fear to hope. The choice is ours.
Some Pregnant Pause Practices:
* Be silent. Even in your head!
* Don’t read, listen to the news, or speak of Covid-19 for a day or more.
* Don’t binge watch; binge listen—for God.
* Read Psalm 114 and take a walk (with mask) in your neighborhood and notice nature.
* Take part of a day as a retreat.
* Do something you’ve never done before.
*Ask an older person about a pregnant pause he or she has experienced.
* Whatever you depend on to dull or cover your emotional response to this time, set it aside. This may be cleaning, ranting on Facebook, talking.
** In the comments let me know a pregnant pause practice you dreamed up.
11 thoughts on “How to Help God Transform Your Fear to Hope”
not trying to “do” much of anything, but “be”, in the midst of all this “whatever we may call it?”,… little, formerly unnoticed, things may become “big surprises!”,… in fact, I may have become a bonafide “dreamer”, with my sleep becoming vulnerable to “visitation” by very unique and unfamiliar scenarios,… at first it was unnerving and questionable to me,… but so far, no harm, no foul,… I wonder to myself ~ are these the kinds of things that might eventually inspire some new “story-telling” literary efforts?,… that could be interesting!,… (-:
Why is doing so much easier than being?
my power cord is shorting out, so I must be short,… I think a lot of these things depend on our age and our basic temperament,… and there’s nothing wrong with “doing good things!”,… perhaps aging allows us to slow down and view things through a wider lens of contemplation, fewer demanding thoughts, more relaxed breathing, etc,… and maybe that let’s us feel like we’re into “being”,… I like to “cultivate calm”,… so, maybe it’s all on a spectrum,… ?
I sense you have an entirely different “power cord” and it never shorts out! Thanks for your continued wisdom.
oh, well,… “it just is what it is, at this point!”,… (-:
Isn’t “doing much” a reach for relief versus the harder work and greater vulnerability required for restoration.
Thanks for your words, vulnerability and heart!!
Well said. I think you are right. I hope you had a promising Easter.
“working” to lean into unproductive space with our family — it has been a gift amidst the craziness
I like that thought “unproductive space.” Name two!
The day after I was informed that my work “in the field” was on hold for (then) two weeks, I made a to-do list as long as my forearm. Frantic anti-shalom ensued. During a week of anxiety, not related to the pandemic but to my need for validation through doing, I tried to figure out the Rules of Life During COVID-19. It was unpleasant and unsustainable.
What was it that I should be doing? I mean, what was “it”?
Finally I asked myself what I would regret not doing after this is all over and decided two things mattered. One, being present for whatever life/God placed in my sphere to help with. And two, writing.
I’m eager to see all the art, song, and words that are birthed during this strange pregnancy.
Deirdre: Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. There is power in each of us sharing and being honest. I think I found myself in the same place. Except I wasn’t proactive enough to make a list!
Write away! I want to read it.
I too am eager to see what God births from this!