Boot Camp, COVID-19, and Busyness

I am often way too busy, and so are you.

COVID-19 has interrupted the busyness, imposing upon most of us some form of “social distancing,” isolation, or even full quarantine. None of us is happy about it, save for the most ardent introverts. But an empty schedule and a slower pace of life offer blessings, especially for Christians.

For three years I served as a chaplain aboard Parris Island, SC where Marine Corps boot camp takes place. Recruits face a radical life change when they arrive on the island. No cell phone. No laptop. No iPad. No television, Netflix, or Amazon Prime. No communication with the outside world, except for snail mail. And no talk with other recruits. At all. For weeks.

Young men and women whose lives toggled from one entertainment to the next, and who had never before known a day without digital technology at their fingertips, suddenly find themselves alone with their thoughts and feelings for the first time. Rather than simply turning to the next entertainment to alleviate painful emotions, personal shortcomings, or family struggles, recruits must face them. The quiet suffocates them.

And then something amazing happens. They grow. Many recruits come to Christ, most come to a new peace in themselves, and all come to understand the poverty of living moment-to-moment in a fog of digital distraction.

The Scripture has taught the value of seclusion, quiet, and stillness for millennia. Even as Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” But it’s hard to be still when you’re constantly distracted, entertained, and scheduled to the hilt. Busyness intrudes.

Not unlike boot camp, COVID-19 has imposed on many of us a measure of solitude to which we are unaccustomed. It has enforced a slower pace of life. And while we, unlike Marine Corps recruits, continue to have access to countless digital distractions, I want to encourage you not to use them. Rather than seeking solace in Netflix, reengage with your family. Talk with your spouse. Write a letter to your nephew. Read the Bible, and a good book as well. Complete a puzzle. Take a nap. Play a board game. In short, slow down. Be still before the Lord, and be present with your family.

Sometimes we talk about “the calm before the storm”—that eerie moment of silence before storm winds crash into the trees. But maybe we ought to talk about the storm before the calm—the storm of busyness, distraction, entertainment, and work that so often consumes us, but which has suddenly, and maybe blessedly, given way to stillness.

COVID-19 may have forced you to be still, but I hope you use it, and increasingly choose it over all-consuming busyness.

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