Need a Word of Encouragement?
When I hear the word 'deploy' I think mainly of troops headed into a hot zone or a war-torn area, but having recently viewed the Netflix series, The Queen's Gambit, the word now also brings to mind the game of chess?as in how might a player best deploy her pieces across the board, arraying them most advantageously to succeed. The word seems loaded rhetorically, not only with the idea of movement but with notions of strategy and purpose.
At the outset of the pandemic, we saw the difficulty of changing our behavior on a dime, but we did it out of necessity borne of a legitimate concern for our health. While we're not out of the woods by any means and we ought to continue to follow the protocols in place, we should also embrace the fact that we're no longer unarmed against the pandemic and a healing process is underway in our world. It may seem slow, even sputtering at times, but it's happening, and how we re-enter into more robust public life calls for some real thought in the present moment. We should be asking the question, How will we deploy ourselves back into the world as the time for that approaches?
One of the main things we need to figure out is this: What did we learn in 2020 that we need to hold on to, and what was it in 2020 that we lost, but need to get back to ASAP?
Mark Manson is an author who uses some blunt and colorful language in his books and blogposts, but offers some good advice concerning what suffering can teach us. He recently conducted a survey of his readers and wrote an article entitled: 1,273 People Share Their Best Life Lessons from 2020. It switched on the following light bulbs for me regarding both the question of what to hang on to and what to get back to:
1. Keep Some of the Routines and Rituals
One of Manson's readers said the lesson he learned last year was that "mundane decisions are underrated." He saw that something as simple as going to bed late one night could impact the next two or three days, potentially causing a negative ripple effect. As things pick up, keep some of the daily routines and rituals you've adopted that have helped you along. Routine provides a sense of order for your mind to lean on as things shift around you and simple daily rituals can be an effective counter-balance to the higher level of change and activity ahead.
2. Maintain Space for Self-Reflection
Another of Manson's readers said that with "no social distraction or trips to plan, there was nowhere to hide from myself." Again, as things accelerate, it's going to be harder to keep mindful space open to assess the things about ourselves that are easy to avoid when we're busier. As you begin to advance into a new season, be intentional about maintaining some space for self-reflection and healthy critical self-assessment, even when it's easier to dodge.
3. Hold on to Familiarity with Family and Friends
Manson reported hundreds of readers who "expressed gratitude for renewed closeness with family members and old friendships." I'm in this camp. As the pandemic arose, many of my friends set up texting chat groups. As time went on, we planned monthly meet-ups outside. It's not only been great to reconnect, but to break out of patterns of social isolation which tend to diminish us both psychologically and spiritually. I plan to keep these valuable links in place permanently.
4. When You Feel It's Safe, Get Back to Character-Forming Institutions
Out of necessity, we all found new routines and technologies to connect with one another in the context of work, school, and the other institutions that play a role in enriching our lives. Even with their drawbacks, these were real life-savers. But if we're not careful, we could grow to over-rely on their convenience to our detriment. God has given us the blessing of meaningful work ahead?to reinvigorate the institutions that should endure and be passed along to future generations. It's going to be a heavy lift to reconstitute them in new and lasting ways, but deciding how best to deploy our energies to help them make their comebacks is a worthy challenge to look forward to.
Help me assess the terrain ahead and strategically deploy my energies, keeping what should be kept, letting go of what needs to be released, and returning to the things that form me in Your image.