By Deacon Leong Pei De
The two months of circuit breaker has been an experience of ‘firsts’ for many of us. It is the first time we have been told to stay away from church; first time we have opened up the church’s doors to provide safe, sound sleeping places for the homeless to stay; first time we have entered the month of May with our AGM yet to be conducted (more on that in the announcements). On a personal note, some firsts I have experienced include working from home for an extended period of time; having the mama lemon dish detergent run out at an alarming rate; and spending our wedding anniversary back home as there was nowhere we could be out celebrating.
These firsts have been the result of a situation that has required us to make adjustments to our lives and routines, calling into question what is truly essential. The choices that were abundantly available are now limited. No shopping, except for groceries; no socializing over meals and shared activities; and certainly no bubble tea. An unintended effect has been that life, when stripped down to the essentials, can be a refreshingly simpler one. Not having to jostle with the crowds while commuting to and from work can afford us more time to rest. Not having places to go to can result in simpler forms of enjoyment within the home, including reading a book or experimenting with new recipes. Not having to make decisions about where to head out for meals can grant us more headspace to think and reflect. Not being able to meet in large social settings can nudge us to make more intentional connections with individuals. Suddenly there is a lack of distracting noises which demands our attention, and we can focus on what really matters.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Buffeted by the need to think ‘essential’, this is a perfect opportunity to buy less and consume less, and perhaps to rid ourselves of the desire for more. Jesus tells us not to accumulate more stuff and grow attached to it, but instead to grow in our attachment to Christ and his kingdom’s work. Admittedly, there are moments in the day when I scroll mindlessly on my phone trying to pick up a new gadget or item of clothing, only to realise that I do not actually need it (given that I have no need to head out or host people, etc.). On top of the monetary savings, having less allows us to appreciate what we need and be a better steward of that which we have been given. More is not necessarily better, so instead of accumulating, let us learn to seek fulfilment elsewhere - in the relationships we have with our God and others, everyday experiences and even the quietness of a morning.
Our somewhat simpler lives require us to practice intentionality in promoting the things we value most and removing that which distracts us. Jesus, during his earthly ministry made relationships with others a priority, took time to rest, focused on sharing the good news, served others and spent time praying to the Father. While we are not able to head out and get many other things done, this might be an opportune moment to get serious about our familial relationships – perhaps now is the time to deal with a misunderstanding we have had with someone at home, or to engage in deeper conversations with a family member, which we have been reluctant to do because they are awkward and effortful? Perhaps you have wanted to spend time reading through a book of the Bible or some Christian literature so as to grow in your understanding and love for Christ and his Word? Is there a friend whom you could chat or share a word of encouragement with during this difficult time? Can you use your gifts and talents to serve the community?
While we transit out of the circuit breaker period in the coming week, there will soon be more responsibilities and choices which demand our attention once again. Before that happens, I encourage you to make the most of this pause and take time to consider what God would have you focus on and intentionally do.