I saw an article recently that hit me pretty hard. Apparently, in China, the divorce rate has spiked in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. “Divorce rates in the country (China) have risen significantly because ‘couples are spending too much time together at home during self-isolation.” We would be foolish to think the same thing can’t and won’t happen here. This is such a peculiar moment. In one way, so many of the external activities and idols that kept us so busy have been stripped away. The pace of our lives has come to a sudden halt, hitting like a thud. For my family, just a couple weeks ago, every night and most of the weekend was filled with activity. Sports practices, meetings, school events, and church activities filled up the space not already taken by work and school. We were busy, and like most, wore our “I’m so busy” label like a badge of honor and proof that we were doing all the right things. Then, in virtually a weekend, all of that got stripped away. Without those things the pace has certainly changed, but now I am isolated with a very small band of five people and three large dogs in my suburban house.
Before the moment we were having all kinds of discussions and arguments in the culture about the makeup and importance of the family. Now God has pushed us into tight quarters with our family. If we believe in the mistaken notion that the family is some sort of utopian fairy tale, the days ahead are going to be a huge disappointment. God never designed this group of people to be the filler of your soul. For the believer, the family is one of God’s ordained graces for our sanctification, our growth in holiness becoming more like Jesus. When we understand the Gospel and recognize our own need for Jesus. this should be a good thing. If nothing else, God has given us a moment in our lives when the busyness and insane pace of life has been stripped away and we are left with only the closest group of people around us. Here is the truth, your family, and my family is made up of broken sinners in need of grace, and therefore is a place for mutual love, repentance, and forgiveness. In other words, for those who have spouse and kids in their lives, they are God’s gift to make you more like Jesus. So this season is a gift to us, an opportunity to lean in to these relationships and trust the Lord to use them to move us toward His purpose in life, which is the promise to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-30). If we can approach this season of life with this goal in mind, it will help us in the coming days as God leads us to greater love for Him and of our spouse and family. John Piper wrote a great book titled Don’t Waste Your Life (it would be a great read during this time) which challenge us to be intentional in our pursuit of God’s glory in life so we don’t waste our precious days on earth. I want to encourage you to no waste this quarantine. I have no idea how many days of this we have ahead, but in the moment we can receive this as God’s gift to do some things we haven’t had time to do, and use the days ahead intentionally for your and your family growth together and in Christ.
Alright, enough “theologizing” this, my intention is to write a practical post with some thoughts about how we can lean in to this moment, embrace what God is doing, and develop habits and disciplines that will help us grow in our love of God and love of each other.
Start with focus on your walk with Jesus, and the spiritual life of your family.
- Continue, or start a steady rhythm of Bible reading and prayer. Create a plan for yourself, and for your children. With more time at home, we can start a rhythm that can become a habit during this season
- Get in community. At Genesis, all of our groups are figuring out how to do community gatherings online. If you are in a group, make it a priority to “attend” your group meeting on Zoom or whatever platform they are using. If you are not in a group let us know and we can help you find a group. More than ever we face the danger of becoming more isolated. God made us for community, and the gift of technology allows us to continue meeting, praying, and reading Scripture together. My group even discussed a creative idea for sharing a meal together. We are planning a night when we all go buy a meal supporting Eureka businesses, wave at each other through our car windows, then bring it home and eat while we are on Zoom together, and then pray for each other.
- Limit news, watching and reading with eternity and God’s sovereignty in mind. Lots of Bible passages on this, including Habakkuk. In this time we look to news for information, but the overwhelming stream of information about the virus can be mesmerizing. Yet, too much will move us toward hopeless depression. The problem is that we will turn to the news and media to give us hope, which gets us caught in a cycle. The way to break the cycle is to get little doses of news with big doses of worship, thanksgiving, and praise. We get this by seeing our current situation in light of God’s love for us, His redemption, and the promise of eternity.
- Read a book that will grow you in the faith and stretch you intentionally. Here are a few recommendations.
Living closely with your spouse
- Date intentionally. Don’t just dwell inside the same walls without using this as a chance to grow deeper. I heard of a couple who chose to leave the kids at home and go for an hour drive together, just a drive, out of the house, down some back roads. This is a good idea.
- Watch a show together. So this has been a big thing for Heidi and I throughout our marriage. We have journeyed through classics like Home Improvement, Cheers, Seinfeld, and Brooklyn 99. Maybe you could find a show and schedule a consistent time each day to sit next to each other in a warm embrace, and watch a show together. Other options might include reading a book, or listening to music together.
- Have more sex. Didn’t expect to see that one here, did you?! For some of our relationships, intimacy had grown cold, reflecting lives that were growing ever distant. Sex is not a solution for a struggling marriage, but it is a barometer. We are going to be with each other a lot more, why not zest up the relationship physically as one step toward oneness.
- Read Scripture and pray together. Why not start a discipline of opening the Bible with your spouse and praying with and for each other.
- Have intentionally fun conversations with your spouse. The internet has multiple sites with group mixer or would you rather type questions. Pull a few questions and see how your spouse will answer. Laugh a little with (and at) each other.
Living closely with your family/kids
- Get your kids started reading their Bible, either with you or on their own, depending on their age. I am going to be honest with you. For the Hubbard fam, we had gotten a little lax in encouraging our kids to open God’s Word each day. This season of life, though, has given us the opportunity to regroup and get their nose back in the Scriptures. We are starting each day with each of our kids reading Scripture. They read for themselves, but we are all reading the same passages so we can talk about it later in the day. We are having our kids read a little bit from the Gospel of Mark each morning and a Psalm. I created a reading plan for my family, and have shared it below if you would like to use.
- Make the most of meal times. We were so busy before this pandemic hit, and it was so hard to eat meals together, or when we did it was downing something quickly so we could get to the next event. Now we are eating all our meals together. But for our family, we have made the evening meal a family festive event. Teach your kids to cook. Have them help with preparation. Then enjoy the meal together. Talk about your good things and bad things. The Bible has a rich theology of meals together and the reality that this is one of the core gifts God has given us to create intimacy and community. Make the most of this season of life and the extra time you have around the table.
- One of the things I realized quickly is that my kids needed some fun and activity. So I have become their de facto PE teacher. Try it, your kids will find much joy. Play a game of kickball, street hockey, or shoot some hoops. Play tag or fun versions of hide and seek. Get kids out of the house during the day for 30 minutes and have some fun.
- Pick an old time show and watch through it together. If you have Hulu, Amazon Prime TV, or Netflix there are a lot of options. Remember the Brady Bunch, or the Beverly Hillbillies. How about Family Matters (I can still hear Steve Urkle saying “Did I do thayat?”). Lots of fun options.
- Take hikes or bike rides together. If you live in or near Eureka, there are a myriad of hiking options. Route 66 State Park, Rockwood Reservation, and Greensfelder County Park (behind Six Flags) have great trails.
- Interact individually with your kids. We can see our family as a collective, and do most of our stuff together as a fam. But it is also important to set aside moments and even do activities with each individual child in your family. We have identical twin girls that are now 11 years old. Even though they share dna, they are as different in personality and the makeup of their heart as anyone we know. They enjoy doing stuff with our entire family. But they also need us to set aside time to do stuff that is just with and for them. Mary likes to shoot baskets. Grace enjoys music and art.
- Get their nose in a book that will have eternal impact. Have them read the Chronicles of Narnia or Pilgrim’s Progress. Here is a list of books from a Gospel Coalition blog post for different grade levels.
- Pray over your kids. They are just as nervous and fearful as you. Praying over them at night or during meals will let them know what trusting in the Lord looks like and encourage them that there is hope in uncertainty. It will do the same for you.
Let’s be praying that we use this very interesting and challenging time to grow our own faith and that of our family. Don’t waste your quarantine.