Changes are more often by necessity than by choice. Circumstance, context, or crisis dictates our doing something different. Adjustments and alternate ways of being are adopted according to the needs of the moment, rather than as an extension of a grand design.
Our global pandemic–this moment of humanity’s shared plight–has created just such a circumstance where changes are not so much chosen as they are simply required.
The range of options has narrowed. A recent walk around the neighborhood gave me time to reflect on this reality, on how the past few months have reduced my commitments and have opened up space. I’ve spent less time in the office and much less time in the car. I’ve spent less time involved with youth sports (soccer season was cancelled, as was coach pitch) and more time in the presence of my family. I’ve spent little time at the church building but more time in study and in reflection. There has been less money spent at restaurants and more intention directed toward what I eat (or don’t) while at home. I’ve spent less time in a gym and more time biking, hiking, walking, and exercising with equipment I own.
The pandemic has given me the opportunity to get lighter. Some responsibilities were naturally released or discontinued; others were paused. The lack of mobility has led to deepened presence, and greater awareness, directed toward one place: my life. Energy reserves that were previously consumed by other commitments and interactions have been released for other endeavors. Margin, which I did not actively choose, was opened. I’ve been free to evaluate systems, assess gifts, reflect, and to look forward. Deaccumulation, which I did actively chose, has become a discipline of freedom. Closets and drawers now have more space, piles have disappeared.
A life, like a good story, has arcs and spirals, peaks and valleys, ascents and descents, triumphs and defeats, in-breakings of light and unforeseen moments of enveloping darknesses. The journey metaphor, though overdone, remains useful. The passage of time and the traversing of distance often result in us picking up a thing or two. Some mementos are tangible and physical, others are ephemeral or emotional. All carry weight.
Moments like these allow us to reflect and decide that which we will continue to carry and that which we will choose to lay down. Some of us find that our lives are evenly weighted; we bear exactly those things that are ours to bear. Others find that responsibilities are now before them they must take up, that now is the moment of maturity and growth and expansion. Lastly, and finally, there are those of us who will discover that they are weary, that the load must be lightened, that strength must be gathered, and preparations must be made for the work and the walk that remains ahead.
Getting lighter does not mean seeking after the life that is easiest, but rather seeking the life that is best. Jesus, after all, described his way as the taking up of the easy yoke and his burden as being light, not because it was not a burden, but because in the bearing of it consistently and over time with him, one discovers what it means to be fully human while living in full communion with God.