Contemplative Life

Apart But All Together

I experienced the passage of time through a wide variety of tempos these last six months.  March was Allegretto – “moderately fast”.  April through June was Adagio – “slowly with great expression”.  July through August was Andante – at a walking pace.  And now we’re in the middle of September already, and it feels as though we’re pressing towards Allegro Moderato or even Allegro – “fast/quick”.  Some have returned to offices.  We’ve settled into new rhythms and are normalizing them.  Schools are back in session.  While it hasn’t quite reached its former glory yet, DC’s “rush hour” traffic is back.

From the beginning of the shutdown and strict quarantine back in March, many of us sensed that something about the season we were entering was unique and set apart, in both hard and helpful ways.  It was once difficult to imagine bearing the burden of a pandemic in our country for six weeks, and now we’re half a year in.  We’ve tried to do things we used to do– take vacations, see family and friends in person, do our jobs normally, go to school, attend church, take care of and serve people– and we’ve had varying degrees of success in those things.  

As our pace evens out and steadies for the long haul, maybe even quickens with more things coming back online in some form, what was once set apart, albeit forcibly, is now returning to a morphed version of regular life.  The question I continue to pick up is one posed to me just before I went on vacation a few weeks ago– “what is the continuity, or, how do I find the continuity, between the set-apart time, and the every-day time?”  Underneath this, I’ve found a deeper question:  “What is God inviting us to keep and what can be left behind?”

This question holds even as we progress through these changing tempos and habitual parts of our lives which now seem to be under constant metamorphosis with pandemic concerns and decisions at every corner.  When we do receive the gift of a time set apart for a specific purpose– to rest, reconnect, explore, confront, heal– we know we can’t simply remain in that state, but we also can’t lose everything that we gained there when we return to the normal parts of our lives.  How can God sustain us and how does He want to integrate the set-apart with the everyday?  How do we abide while fully dwelling in the world? 

I usually spend my vacations outdoors day and night, in places without walls.  This year, I slid easily into a life outside in a beautiful place where the pandemic didn’t noticeably exist and everything I was doing was normal and in the fashion I would normally do it in.  When I’ve come back from these trips the last few times, the re-entry has been nothing short of awful.  It was violent and unwanted.  But this time it wasn’t as bad.  I sensed God’s grace connecting the disparate tempos of all the preceding months, and the serene yet wild beauty all around me, with everything already in my life.  The set-apart times are part of the whole, an important part, and God speaks to us in them just as he does in our everyday lives, if we are listening.  As tempos quicken and we keep trying to find new normals, let’s keep listening for God in the everyday, and remembering him in the set-apart, and watching for how he brings them together.

Share this post

Keep Growing

Do you want robust Spiritual Formation resources delivered straight to your inbox each week?