The Great Pause of 2020

By Julianne Stanz | For The Compass | June 3, 2020

It seems that the topic of COVID-19 is never far from our hearts, minds and lips these days. Some people find that it is the only topic for conversation, while others are exhausted from such a singular focus and want to move on with their lives. Many of us vacillate between both. All are valid ways of coping with what we have been thrust into in such a short period of time. So much of life has shifted in subtle and not so subtle ways.

As creatures of habit, we long for routine and so we try to find our equilibrium through this time. The tension is that we are all still in a limbo period. In Ireland we would call this a “betwixt and between time” — a time that straddles the “now and the not yet.” We intuit that life as we know has changed but we do not know how fully.

During a recent conversation with a wise friend, she recently called this time “the Great Pause of 2020.” It was the first time that I had heard this expression and it certainly gave me pause to consider the meaning that this time holds for each of us beyond a narrow focus on the disease. What does this time mean for each of us spiritually? What does it mean about what we value and how we live?

While the story of humanity during the Great Pause of 2020 is still being written, this time has ushered in a new way of being. It gave most of us a chance to slow down, to spend more time inside of our homes than in our cars and an opportunity for introspection and contemplation. For some, this time brought rest and healing; for others it brought sadness and anxiety. For all of us, it ushered in a season of change.

Regardless of where you are in this journey, hopefully the Great Pause of 2020 did, in fact, bring a pause to some areas that brought unnecessary busyness and stress into your life. For me personally, I relished the time with my family even though we occasionally got on each other’s nerves. We learned new prayers, practiced meditating with Scripture and learned to savor the time at night when we offered up all of the intentions of our hearts together as one family.

Lest you think that we were all living in some sort of blissful utopia, let me assure you that it was not an easy time for us. The challenge of balancing homeschooling, working from home and still trying to stay connected to the people we loved led to meltdowns and tantrums and not all of them from the children! But with patience, our focus as a family changed and we became more prayerful together. It seems that we were not alone.

During the month of March 2020, research from Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture, emphasized that the pandemic was intensifying a new search for prayer. Using Google Trends analysis on internet searches for “prayer” for 75 countries, Bentzen found that the search intensity for “prayer” doubled for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19 in an area.

One day after I was feeling anxious of heart, a wise friend of mine reminded me that God is still in control, in ways that we do not fully understand. “Let us remember,” he said, “that God is in the midst of all of this.” At a time when medical science is still catching up to this newly emerging disease, we know that in birth, death, suffering and joy, God is still present to us, especially in our prayers.

For those that sought refuge in prayer over the last few months, keep dipping into that wellspring of new life that will continue to grow. For those that struggled to pray, keep going. For those that experienced “prayer paralysis” when the challenge of living day-to-day crippled you, try again. Time spent in prayer is never wasted.

In addition to continuing to set aside time to pray, here are other ways to continue to reap the harvest of the Great Pause of 2020.

Pause to be present. Do not allow disruptions and distractions to pull you away from the gift of appreciating the present moment.

Pause from toxic media. If your media usage causes you to be more distracted and discombobulated, cut it off.

Pause from busyness. Virtual meetings, events and gatherings can wear us down. Do not allow the world to cause you to swap one kind of busyness for another.

May this Great Pause of 2020 yield a rich harvest and usher in a season of love, peace and joy for all of us.

Stanz is director of Parish Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay and author of “Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church,” from Loyola Press.

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