These past few weeks have felt a bit like a movie in the making – surreal at moments. I go to bed and wake up the next day thinking maybe it’s all a dream. I then walk down the stairs to our fireplace room where my husband has the television ready to “watch” daily Mass and I am starkly reminded – it is not a dream. It is very much our new reality. I could go on and on about the amazing good I have seen and continue to see on a daily basis as result of the unprecedented time we are living in – the heroic moments, inspiring stories, sacrificial deeds, and innovative ways of socially connecting that fill my social media feeds – but I want to hone in here on some practical ways to embrace and grow from one of the very real challenges for many of us: the challenge of suddenly spending an immense amount of extra and unique time with our spouse and children.
Perhaps at first the unexpected additional time was welcomed and seen as an opportunity to grow closer as a couple and more tightly knit as a family, and that definitely has been a positive result for many of us. But, at what cost? I would suggest if we are the fortunate ones to be experiencing greater unity as a family and as a married couple – it has cost us our selfishness, our pride and our bad habits. Growing closer and more tightly knit is HARD! Although we can participate in Zoom meetings, or Facetime and talk on the phone with our friends and extended family, the only real people we have to truly and intimately interact with each day is one another.
For my family, it has cast a bright spotlight on the areas we need to work on. This is good, but difficult to see and uncomfortable to deal with. We can’t close our eyes or bury ourselves in busyness outside of our home. We are forced to frequently connect, forgive, be patient with one another, and sincerely apologize when we hurt or drive another member of our family nuts by our annoying and perhaps sinful behaviors.
God is stretching us outside of our comfort zones, alerting us of our apathy and inviting us to grow.
He came to not only “comfort the afflicted” but to afflict the comfortable. Much of society as a whole has become complacent and God is affording all of us an opportunity to grow closer to Him and to our families by stretching us. Stretching is uncomfortable. The closer we look at ourselves in a mirror, the more imperfections we see. If we take a few steps back from a mirror, we often look a lot better because we are not close enough to see our flaws. God is like a mirror; the closer we get to Him, the more clearly we see ourselves and our imperfections. Likewise, the closer we become to another person, the more we see them for who they are – the good and the bad. It is often easier to keep a safe emotional distance from people, even our own family members, because it is within our comfort zone and growing closer would require more of ourselves to give. So, we keep our “healthy” distance and life keeps plugging along.
Then, one day, without real warning, a pandemic shuts the world as we know it down, and we are forced in a whole new and authentic way to deal with our imperfections, our spouse’s imperfections and our children’s flaws. We can no longer keep up a façade, pretend we don’t care, or ignore the reality in front of us that we have grown accustomed to blinding ourselves to. Instead we are given an opportunity to grow in a big way and love the most important people in our lives deeper than we ever knew we were capable of loving. It’s a time like no other, an opportunity like no other – don’t miss out!
Copyright 2020 Kathleen M. Billings