For many of us who read this today, we find ourselves moving into a new season of life — one I’ve dubbed The Summer of Reentry. Eager to put pandemic perils behind us yet discerning a lingering disjointedness, we find ourselves on new ground, yet again. Navigating our reentry will differ based on our location, COVID experiences, and general state of mind, but our commonalities unite us as we seek to step back into life as it is now. I’m curious, where do you find yourself in reentry, as depicted by these scenarios?
- Closing her purse after the attendant checked inside, she steps through the metal detector and enters her first live sporting event since COVID. Wide-eyed and curious how many people will brave this kind of reentry, she looks around, shocked — first, because of the mass of people; second, because not one of them wears a mask. Taking deep breaths, she lowers her pulse and reminds herself to relax and enjoy this day of being out in the world again. Finding her seat, she realizes there will be no social distancing at this packed house of 40,000. The mask stays on, even if she looks silly.
- Chanting for the home team, she pushes through the crowd to catch up with her friends on the way into the stadium. The smile never leaving her face, she talks nonstop about how great it is to be doing normal things again, mentioning how much she had missed crowds and friends and ballpark nachos with extra peppers. She spies a woman walking nearby wearing a mask, feeling deep relief she doesn’t have to be confined by such restraints anymore. Yet equally curious why anyone would choose to wear a mask willingly. She shrugs and searches for the cheesy concoction she craves.
Despite my oversimplification, these two scenarios capture the essence of where the majority of us find ourselves this summer. The first scenario was me just a few weeks ago. The second is a conglomerated creation based on observation and investigation. Other possible reentry positions could be somewhere in the middle — ready but not ready — or very simply, just not ready.
My heart in creating such storylines is to paint pictures that give us the ability to see that other people think and feel differently than we. Post-pandemia perspectives and plans are as diverse as the people themselves. Our reentry, no matter where we are in it or how we feel about it, requires us to be intentional to grab hold of God’s grace, moving through each day with every morsel He gives.
Grace — More Than Salvation
A lot of twenty-first century Christians have had the notion of grace defined only as, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Romans 3:23-24, NLT). We know the big idea — grace is the redeeming power that was missing before Jesus died and resurrected. Absolutely. 100%.
But what some of us are just figuring out is that grace doesn’t end at salvation. Grace also supports our sanctification, offering hope for the hard seasons, courage for the scary ones, and strength for our weaknesses. Sanctification is the set-aside, spiritual journey that enables us to learn and grow and change, becoming more and more like Christ as we do. Grace is about reconciliation with God but also about “reordering the priorities and economies of our hearts…, the recreation of our hearts and the renewing of our minds — by the reorientation to what is holy and complete” (Dave Harrity, Making Manifest, 74-75, emphasis mine).
Reordering Our Priorities
For all the awful we could say about COVID, one thing it did well was highlight what mattered most — family, friends, fellowship. Pandemic lock down brought priorities into focus, so we want to guard them by being prepared for the temptation, and even expectation, to fill life to the fullest. It will be so easy to let busyness dictate our calendars and margin again. Stopping before we step back into “new” life rhythms is key. Writing down priorities before we make commitments is imperative. Putting those priorities on our calendars before we re-enter the swift currents of life helps us reorder the world’s priorities for God’s.
I’ve had to go and buy a planning calendar — for my summer of all things! After a year of not needing one, I now need to get everything in writing, out of my head, so I can see all the moving parts on paper. When I told a friend about the overwhelm creeping in as my summer fills up, she set her pen down and leaned toward me, admitting that her anxiety rises everyday because suddenly all her evenings are full. After stressful days at her job, the thought of not being able to relax with her family after work nearly had her in tears. We both agreed that we would have to fight to keep our priorities set, building margin in for what matters most.
Recreating Our Hearts
Grace moves in us and through us for God’s purposes, namely for keeping our hearts healthy, holy, and wholly His. For all the stress and strain that was our former lives pre-pandemic, for all the loneliness and isolation that was our lives during the pandemic, God wants to step in and do some heart renovation. Grace makes a way for that to happen, giving us what we need to step aside and allow God to do His work.
If left to its own devices, my heart would remain wrapped in worry over my sons, my writing, and my future every day, distracting me from the work He wants to do in and through me, so part of reordering my priorities has included making room for quality time with God each day so that grace has space to do its work in my heart. But, it’s getting harder as life gets faster. I’m having to get up earlier, carve out alone time for writing, and schedule time for prayer like I do my yoga. I’m living the truth that how we spend our time is our choice. I’m also feeling the results as God’s work of grace in my heart is making me more willing to let go of control and less apt to panic.
Renewing Our Minds
I’ve read that the Hebrew word for heart actually means the “seat of thought.” What we’d call the mind. The New Testament talks about renewing our minds and taking captive our thoughts, and while there are plenty of great strategies out there for doing just that — hello, Get Out of Your Head! — none of our thoughts get changed for the better without God’s grace. Grace is the go-juice for all things renewal. It’s how we surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit.
My own toxic thought life has been undergoing a massive reconstruction for the last decade. I’ll admit that as truth came to me at first, my reaction was to balk, deny, and run the other way. But, by faith and a deep desire for change, I kept going back to God. And by His grace, I have been able to take a step toward a healthier thought life each day.
Reorientation of All That Is Holy and Complete
None of this — not the reordering, recreating, nor the renewing — happens without grace reorienting us to God. Our holy God. Our God who is Perfect and Complete. He lacks nothing. Not one thing. Then He goes and gives part of Himself, that grace, to help us become more like Him. He invites us into His sacred space to offer us grace. And when we accept it, we become like a compass needle, moving from our own direction to His true north.
I remember college orientation with each of my sons. It was a day full of facts and helpful hints to get them used to their new environment. The leaders at the college were intentional to give them tools to orient these freshmen to college life. The great news for us, friends, is God keeps orienting, or reorienting as it may be, us toward His way of doing life. His Word and His Spirit have been given to us, left for us as gifts to guide, direct, encourage, and reorient. Grace, its own gift, can be picked up and used to help us move toward God and His offerings. Grace is our vehicle to becoming holy and complete.
Our summer series will carry us through six short sessions, every other week, with the purpose of getting us to focus ourselves intentionally on God and His grace as we do the work of reentering post-pandemic-life well.
Our summer of reentry will take us to new depths, offer us opportunities to spread joy, and lead us toward purposes in this new season that will not only please God and bless others but will help us live grace-filled lives. Here’s to reentering TOGETHER!
- One thing we can all do, no matter where we are on the Reentry Spectrum, is spread joy. So, each time you step into the world, bring with you the joy of the Lord and share it. In fact, let’s look for ways to #SpreadJoy all summer. I’ll offer suggestions in each post, but take the idea and run.
- Need an idea? This week spread a little joy by sharing your favorite song with an individual, with a group, or on social media. Pay attention to how spreading joy brings you joy. Go, spread joy!
- The opening song of our Reentry Playlist is actually called, “Come Forth!” If you’re a person who needs to hear those words to help you step out, blinking into the summer sun, come forth and take a small step forward. Meet a friend for coffee. Take a stroll through a bookstore. Or sit on the back row at church on Sunday.
- If you’re someone who finds herself barreling headfirst into life and already feel yourself spinning with all you’ve committed to, hear the words, “come forth,” with the grace that says, “Be still and know I am God.”
- I was recently introduced to author and artist Austin Kleon when I read an article he wrote about how he pours out ideas and thoughts in his logbook — a practice he calls “journalizing.” Austin challenges us to get everything out of our heads and onto paper, which helps us gain perspective and hear from God, so we’re going to take him up on his idea and journalize our way through reentry.
- Before you groan too loud and stop reading, just know that journalizing can be any combination of getting our thoughts out — like lists, doodles, art, free writing (just whatever comes to mind), prompt responses, notes to Jesus, comics, literal cut-and-paste, or any combination of what you come up with. In other words, there are no rules when it comes to journalizing. The point is to keep tabs on what we’re feeling, learning, and worrying about during our reentry. I’ll provide a journal prompt in each post to help us stick with solid, spiritual habits — even during summer! But feel free to journalize all you want!
- Today in your journal, take some time to list, doodle, draw, or write about grace — what you know about it, how you need it, questions you have about it, and why grace is our way to enter/reenter the world…each day!
- We will meet back here next week. Then we’ll head into an every other week rhythm!