Today was the first day of shelter-in-place for my county. I actually had to go to the office today to help a co-worker get setup to work from home. We will come back to that. Here is my thing – I did go last night to visit a friend before shelter-in-place went into effect at midnight, but last night was the first time I had seen another human in person in 4 days. You see, I live alone. Yeah, I am incredibly introverted, but even still, I would usually get out about once a day. People would ask me why I would go to my cafes so much on my days off. Quite frankly, it is because I knew the waitresses, I knew the cooks, and so forth. Them shutting down businesses and telling us that we could be arrested for being around other people outside your household, for someone who lives alone, literally means I am in solitary confinement. I have no wife or kids to spend time with, no roommate to play board games with. And let me tell you, it is hard mentally.
Last week, I had to work from home Friday and Saturday. That was weird. I have been at the same job for 8 years, and have only worked from home once, and that was because of a bad weather day. Is it below freezing? No – beautiful spring day. And I cannot go outside or risk being arrested. I felt like I had been laid off – except that I was working? Yeah, weird. But here I was, trying to make phone calls – by using a horribly designed piece of software and a gamers headset, having to remote in on this tiny little 13 inch laptop when I am used to working across 3 monitors, trying to do my normal job while dealing with a very different work environment, different software, and a messy office (that did get cleaned bit by bit as I had to make room to actually work). I had to THINK about how to do stuff that has become second nature to me because my rhythm has been disrupted.
This week, I also had my first class conducted by video conference call. That was weird – I last saw these people before everything went crazy.
I am getting side-tracked. I apologize, I am getting combative when I am trying to address a revelation I had.
Video conference call. For a class I signed up to take onground, because I don’t work well in online classes. Yes, me, the IT guy, prefers things in person. But it was so weird, we had a final and then spring break, then an extended spring break, so we haven’t really studied this stuff in 3 weeks. It was like coming back after Christmas break and continuing on with the same class – except the only package I got was toilet paper, and I am wearing shorts. Oh, and I need to write a couple of term papers. Yeah, that is still a thing.
And trying to get back to the new normal, I have a homework assignment due at midnight tomorrow, and I have not even started on the reading to be able to start on the assignment. Like everyone else, I am having to get into the new normal.
So today was the first day of shelter in place for my county.
I think many of us are learning just how much of social creatures we really are. You go to get takeout from a restaurant, and the person working the register, a total stranger, will strike up a 10 minute conversation with you, and they will be deep conversations, because you both miss interacting with other humans so much. My co-worker – I am not sure how old he is, but he is in his 60s, has resisted ever taking a laptop home before, so has never even learned how to use our VPN software. He’s terrified about the virus, he is terrified because his work environment is changing, he is terrified because he has to figure out how to get this working kinda on his own to be able to continue working, and low and behold, he calls me tonight almost in tears because he cannot figure out how to connect the thing to his home network. He doesn’t even know the Wi-Fi password because someone else had set it up for him, and because of shelter-in-place, they won’t come over to help. He is taking a vacation day tomorrow just to try to figure out how to get this laptop on his network. I was a bit annoyed with him, not because he was having trouble connecting, but because 1) I know what the problem is but he is too frustrated to listen and 2) he waited until the day that we were already supposed to be doing shelter-in-place to state he didn’t have a laptop. I have had mine for a week and a half, messing with it bit by bit to get setup. I am frustrated that he fought it until it was pretty much “take a laptop home, or take vacation time, you are NOT working from the office”.
As I am dealing with this, my mother calls. We haven’t talked in a few weeks, and she was wanting to catch up, but here I am dealing with a co-worker, and I got homework for seminary to do. I am on the phone with her about 45 minutes, I cannot let her go nicely because you cannot get a word in with her when she is talking. Looking at that clock get later and later.
And I had a phone call from someone checking to see how I was doing. Several people contacting me via text and Facebook checking in on me, several emails. Finally, at 8:45 tonight, I say “Enough! I got to study!”
So the assignment is over a word study. It is on Galatians 5, and covers the words Spirit, Love and Flesh. Before I start reading the text book, I read the chapter in the Bible. And I came across one of the most known verses, one I am going to quote here without even copying it as I know it so well. And this verse hit me like a ton of bricks.
What was the verse? “The Fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Ouch. Have I exercised any of those things today?
People are reaching out to me, some out of concern for my well being, some in frustrations of their own, many just out of loneliness. And I have been experiencing all those things. These people contacting me were answers to my prayers, but many needed me.
And I looked at the assignment again. And something God said to me a few months ago came back to me – “Its okay if you don’t make an A” Here I am in seminary studying to go into ministry, I am frustrated from all these “distractions” keeping me from getting seminary work done, but these “distractions” are the very ministry I have been called to. God has called me to love on people. And how many people have I shut down tonight who actually reached out to me, during my time of isolation and loneliness? Just yesterday I was craving to hear another human voice. Tonight I was annoyed because my phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
What good is it if I make an A on my assignment and turn my back to the very ministry work that is needed at this critical time in world history?
That does not mean I do not have responsibilities. I still have to get both office work and school work done. This may mean that I have to give myself less “me” time and set aside extra time to study understanding this is not my normal rhythm or environment, and that I probably will have interruptions. It means that I have to listen better, not just to the waitress putting my to-go order together, or the cashier ringing up my groceries.
That reminds me, Kudos to the entire world for abiding by these strange ordinances that have been passed down. Thank you to the 99% of the population who have been following the rules without much arguing. Thank you for not taking things out on store employees, thank you to those store employees for still smiling and having good attitudes, thank you for queuing up and not rushing into stores, thank you for giving up your roll of toilet paper to someone else who seems to really need it. Thank you for those who are looking in on your neighbors. Thank you that, no matter how crazy these rules are, you are not doing things that could cause you to be arrested.
Anyways, back on track, and I need to wrap this up. It is okay if I make a B or a C on an assignment because it is late. But right now, I need to be there for these people, and notice how many are there for me. Guys – I actually received PHONE CALLS today! Not a conference call, not a text message or a comment on Facebook – people actually picked up their phones and dialed my number because they wanted to talk to me. While school work and office work is very important, it does not trump my responsibility to friends, co workers, family members, my calling from God.
Guys, our pastors and worship teams are performing to empty auditoriums. They are trying to put on brave faces, but it is hard for them. We don’t get to go to the church building, be with our small groups, have prayer meetings or discipleships right now. This is emotionally impacting people.
I don’t know about you guys, but it hit me tonight what my priority right now should be. It needs to be people.
So what if I have to submit an assignment a day or two late. I will just contact my professors, let them know and let them know I am prepared for the penalty, and explain to them that I cannot study because I have been ministering to people. My grade probably won’t reflect this, but it is the right thing to do.