We are living in the land of "Re": re-entry, re-gather, re-opening. In other words, starting again. Businesses and churches are re-opening, but people are still getting sick. Plans for the fall are happening, but with necessary precautions and heightened sensitivity. Plans B, C, and Z are well thought out and recognized as potential possibilities for the rest of 2020. All football coaches are collectively holding their breath to see if it'll be possible to play, many brides are searching for open venues who will host their big day, and schools are facing some potentially strict guidelines to restart.
This means we are all doing hard things and making hard choices. It's a time where fear is present, but it doesn't have to prevail.
I imagine this time of "Re" is like wading into a river. A river is as unique as the landscape surrounding it. Parts are swift-moving and shallow, while other parts are calm and deceptively deep. To cross it, you must wade through each section to get to the other side. At times wading turns into treading. This is what it is like to be a leader during this pandemic. Right now, we are in the calm part of the river, tentatively taking a step off the rock to see what happens.
While we take steps into the unknown, we can do these things to help us make it to the other side:
Be active in the wait. A song came out in 2007 called "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller that skillfully exhorts believers to be active in the wait. He says, "While I'm waiting, I will serve You. While I'm waiting, I will worship." It's activity during inactivity. We are all in "wait and see" mode as our nation re-opens. We have no idea how long this virus will last or if a vaccine will be available soon. It's a waiting game. But there's so much we can do while we wait. We can serve, worship, share, care, give, and love others. Waiting doesn't have to be an anxious driven time. It can be productive in changing us to trust God more.
Do not let fear cripple you. It's normal to be afraid of the "what ifs" as we go back to work, restaurants, and everyday life. I’ve been to a few restaurants now and some have taken extreme caution using paper menus and others have still refilled my cup using a pitcher they use to refill everyone else’s cups. It is easy to be consumed with these fears because they are birthed from a human perspective, and not tempered by a holy perspective. Shifting our focus to the Lord instead of circumstances is the key to living in our new normal. Whether it's the anxiety of going to the store, or allowing a playdate with friends, ask God for wisdom. I have also found that talking about a concern with a friend helps. Others might have insight into re-entry, while still protecting your family, that will help ease the transition. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control."
Contemplate your story. "When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to Your testimonies;" Psalm 119:59. There are countless stories of God using the unusual to bring His people out of captivity. He is doing this now to us through this pandemic. What is holding you captive? The Church has been complacent and numb to sin for decades. This numbness has made us susceptible to the schemes of the evil one. Maybe we lack empathy, are judgmental or harsh with others. Maybe we care more about programs than people. Now is the time to change the narrative. As we gather with others again, truly see them. Sincerely listen to what they are saying and not saying. Ask questions. Be inquisitive and respond with love.
Build friendships with other pastors’ wives. The Church was never meant to compete with itself. We are not each other’s enemy. Satan is our only enemy. Now is the time to open doors, share resources, and gather as one. The church should be about cooperation, not competition. Invite another pastors' family over for dinner, ask another pastor's wife to speak at an event, and share books, materials, and resources. Pastors’ wives’ feel lonely and friendless at times. Look for opportunities to build relationships with each other. Now is a great time to do things that bring unity.
Trust God with where you’re going. I am a pastor's wife, and I have been watching my husband make decisions for our church during this time. He has skillfully made adjustments that allowed the Church and Word of God to move forward. The word many have used during this pandemic is “pivot.” Although he has done a good job pivoting during this time, I don't put my trust solely in him because it isn’t really him who is leading. It is the Lord. God has been guiding our husbands to shift, adjust, move, and transition. God didn’t need their help, but their faithful obedience. What I love most about this is WE are not alone. It is refreshing to know that throughout our continued transition, we are never alone.
While we wade through the "Re," let's not forget who holds our hand. God is our guide and will get us through to the other side.
This article was written by Melanie Ratcliffe. Melanie serves as an Evangelism Strategist for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, focusing on Ministry Evangelism and Women's Ministry. To contact Melanie, email firstname.lastname@example.org.