As odd, and potentially off-putting as it may sound, a subtle benefit of the COVID lockdown is that it stripped us down to the essentials. Our clubs, recreation, extracurricular events, all suddenly ceased. I want to be clear from the start, I appreciate the opportunities my kids and I have had throughout our lifetimes to be involved in a variety of recreational, competitive, and social organizations and activities. If you know me well you know I can be obsessively competitive. I feel like I learned a lot of great life lessons being a part of sports teams in my younger years. I have coached or led various sports or clubs throughout my adult life. I am not down on extracurricular activities. What I am down on is the central role many of those things have taken in the lives of families.
For the Fitch family, COVID + Sabbatical = Rest. We had a chance to catch our breath. We were forced to say “no” to things we love and soon realized, we can actually live without some of the things we’ve been so passionate about in the past. We had a higher quantity of time together which led to more quality time together. When certain sports or activities were postponed or cancelled, I thought for sure there would be a consistent melancholy hanging over all of us. Or equally as bad, boredom. We’d become lazy, unmotivated, and technologically obsessed. I was delighted to find out my expectations were rather pessimistic and instead we discovered there was a lot we could live without.
I remember a few years ago hearing a sermon by Andy Stanley, in which he theorized that many parents, and by extension kids, are run ragged with busyness because parents are parenting out of fear. Fear that one day, when their kids are grown, they will approach their parents questioning why they were not allowed to try some sport, or club, when they were younger and the parents will be overcome with guilt. The point being is that the motivation for the parent involving their child in everything isn’t for the lessons learned through that experience, or for the sake of fun, but fear that their child might miss out on something other children are enjoying.
A commodity we are all given without charge is time. What we do with that commodity is up to us. There are obviously some non-negotiables: adults work and children go to school. We all need sleep. So what we do with the precious little time left is of utmost importance. If the only time you rest is when you sleep, if the only time you spend with your kids is in the car as you travel somewhere, if the only conversation you have with your spouse is about the bills, something has to change or you will burn out. I encourage everyone to take a “self-audit” of your time. What have you always believed is an essential that you can actually live without? What keeps you from quitting whatever that is? What essentials are not being met while non-essentials are a priority?
This doesn’t mean you or your family members suddenly cease everything. The goal and challenge is to keep everything in its proper place. My children don’t have to play soccer, learn the piano, be a part of drama club, metalworks, student council, 4H, and Boy/Girl Scouts all at the same time. None of those things are bad, but they can become that way once family activities, meaningful conversations, church involvement, communing with our Savior, and/or taking a sabbath, are ignored. As Ecclesiastes 3 so famously says, there is a season for everything. Not everything should happen in one season. Maybe doing less could lead to more peace and joy? Priorities in the right place can lead to contentment and finding our identity in who Christ made us to be, instead of finding our identity in our activities.