Life Off the Radar: Week One
Beauty. Calm. Simplicity. Remember those words I used to paint the picture of my social media–free life? Well. . . those aren’t exactly the words I’d use to describe my week.
Today marks the first time in the last ten days that I’ve been out of the house for more than two hours. That’s two hours TOTAL for the last ten days.
Instead of beauty and calm and simplicity, my life has been filled with fever, Kleenex, and coughing—and lots and lots of snot. The flu hit our family hard. No one was exempt. While I’m grateful we got sick while we were already planning to be home, I reached my stay-at-home breaking point about three days ago.
In the words of my mom, “Bad time to be off Facebook. . .”
Perhaps she was right. The combination of no social media and life in quarantine had me feeling quite isolated. When Ben was sick in bed and I had three feverish kids who needed care, I craved interaction, a pat on the back to make it through the next hour. I kept reaching for my phone out of instinct. Pretty quickly I realized I’d have to remove Facebook and Instagram completely if I was going to stay true to my social media fast. As a replacement, I began to check the weather excessively, as if I couldn’t just look outside at the six inches of snow to know that it was cold.
If this first week without social media taught me anything, it’s this: I’ve developed this instinct to share every moment, every thought before experiencing it fully, reflecting on it, or talking it over with God. I see a funny sign, and I post it on Instagram. My kid barfs, and I immediately text my best friend to commiserate. My heart hurts, and I call Ben or my mom to pray—maybe before I’ve even prayed myself.
None of these responses are inherantly bad. But I find myself asking: Am I missing out on an intimacy with God that comes with sharing life with Him first—and maybe even Him only?
This week when I was in quarantine, I wanted to complain almost constantly. I wanted to be bitter, to be mad, often feeling like my bad attitude was warranted. (Remember the TWO HOURS in TEN DAYS?!?) Multiple times, I started to text complaint-filled messages to friends or family members to seek out sympathy. But something stopped me from sending them.
God’s still, loving, patient voice said to my heart:
“Just be still. Look for me right where you are, right in the illness. Your job is to love your family. Even if they’re awful to you or you’re worn out or feeling unappreciated, your job is to love them no matter what. You don’t love them because they love you. You just do it. Let me take care of loving you.”
I didn’t like it at first. I kind of enjoyed the wallowing. But as I told God all my complaints and frustrations, my heart softened. I realized that if God’s love and grace isn’t conditional, why should mine be? The more I talked to God, the more my bitterness over my circumstances melted into love, and God helped me muzzle my complaints. Although I was incredibly worn out, He helped me serve my family without expecting a return.
But then today happened. Ben went to the grocery to pick up some essentials and returned with some of my favorite snacks (BBQ Pringles and peanut butter M&Ms). He expressed both in gifts and in words his gratitude for how I’d been taking care of everyone.
The tears, people. The tears came easily.
You see, moments like this are a pretty big deal in our marriage. While I’m a words person, my husband uses them sparingly and with great intentionality, so his affirmation was unexpected. After all, he still was’t feeling one hundred percent. But I soaked his words in like a sponge. And he didn’t stop there! Ben sent me away to do whatever I wanted for the rest of the day.
You better believe there was a Sarah-shaped hole in our house in about five seconds flat.
As I retreated to write at the coffee shop and later have dinner with my sister, I couldn’t stop marveling at how beautifully God had worked. While He was helping me get over myself, challenging me to give and give and give some more even when it hurt, He was also working behind the scenes, helping Ben see my exhaustion and show me love. In the end, I received everything my heart ached for in the first place—and then some.
My secrets shared with God alone turned sacred as I watched my Heavenly Father respond in ways only He could. And looking back, I guess there was much more beauty happening in the quarantine than I realized.
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