What would it look like for the whole world to pause for a season?
We are finding out as it unfolds before our eyes.
There are three words on my mind and heart right now, words that may in a very small and inarticulate way express some of what we are facing as individuals, families, nations and the human race.
First is the word pause. No one could have imagined what it would mean for whole nations to shut their borders, global travel to be cut by 90% in some places, economies in melt down. It is a global pause in some ways. The word pause means to have a ‘short stop’. It is not forever, and a pause means that ‘this too will pass’. That is not to say that massive suffering is not happening of course, firstly for those families losing loved ones as well as countless people losing employment without knowing when the end will be.
But a pause, however short the stop is, can also be a pregnant pause. One filled with new life, new possibilities. To write that is not to minimize the struggles being caused by the coronavirus or the pain resulting in so many lives. What is about to be birthed in our personal lives, in our nations, in our world? What new creative beginnings will be seen as this too passes?
It is not easy to pause. Already some that have been in shelter at home orders like we have, or self-quarantines or mandated ones, are getting stir crazy. There can be destructive habits that unfortunately strengthen during this time or a rise of mental illness. But if we allow this pause to be a place of healing, of true attentiveness to what is within, we can see this pregnant pause bring forth wonderful new fruit.
Allow yourself to pause every day during this time. Perhaps a few minutes of silence, of centering. That pause may give you room to take stock of your life right now, and perhaps find space to heal. Our earth itself needs to heal, as do so many relationships between humans living on it. There is a beautiful Hebrew word in the Old Testament, Selah, which is used 71 times in the Psalms alone, usually at the end of a verse or chapter. It has the idea of ‘pause’, but can also mean ‘forever’. Sometimes a pause is not for a short time, but forever. Some things that stop in this season may never start again.
But a second word on my heart these days is the word reset. This pause we are in at a global level will not last forever. As I just wrote above, some things however may not come back again. Some ways we have acted or related, some kinds of jobs, may not be there again. Some of those changes will be positive, others destructive. There will be the need for all of us at some level to reset.
To reset means to set something again, but usually differently. Similar words could be to restart, restore, re-establish, reboot or reinstate. A few years ago in New Delhi, India, I was in an auto-rickshaw that collided with a car and turned over. My hand ended up under the side of the vehicle and a main bone was broken. When I went to the hospital, they had to ‘reset’ my bone and put a cast on it. It needed to be set differently, to be fixed in a way that would heal. To reset means you have done the work in the time of pausing so that you can heal. Is our nation doing that work to heal? Are you? Am I?
We are so desperately in need of personal and national and global healing. Our prayers need to be for a reset in every way, starting with our own lives. A reset comes out of a pause when there is a taking seriously the need for change. Otherwise broken bones, broken lives, broken churches and organizations, broken nations will remain that way even after this coronavirus season passes.
The third word on my mind is shift. Going into 2020 this word was strongly on my heart. I heard other friends also had that same word. There was a sense that something was shifting in 2020, but hardly anyone predicted this kind of event happening at a global level. But shifts of a major kind don’t often happen without there first being a pause, and then a reset. All three are needed for societal or personal conversion and radical change.
I do believe massive shifts are coming ahead as we go through this crisis globally. I will not go into those in this post, but perhaps will in the near future. Greater minds and hearts than mine are also speaking and writing about those shifts. But they are big, and global. I want to hope and believe that they are shifts of healing, of restoration. And I think some will be. Of course there will also be shifts into greater pain, greater suffering, greater loss. But even these can hold seeds of new births, new open doors.
To shift is to change, to see transformation. The reset puts us into place to see that shift happen. But the pausing first is absolutely essential. A time of respite, of Selah. Perhaps you knew already that you needed to hit the pause button in your life, or family or nation. But life was always too busy to actually have the courage to do it. Well, it has been done for you by an insidious and deadly virus.