As a teenager, I remember pasting a quote from Blaise Pascal on the wall of my room. It was a thought I resonated with, not without some arrogance: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Now, in the context of the social distancing triggered by the pandemic, a dear friend living in the West reminded me of this quote, producing an avalanche of memories of a future that never happened. It had remained in another age, another political regime, another epoch…and things happened differently than they seemed written to happen. The fragility of the balance we have created is felt not only physically, biologically, but also in the illusory belief that we are masters of our time, that we control our own slice of the world’s time.
However, paradoxically, the current state of emergency has relieved us of precisely the general urgency we used to feel. Those familiar with the need to divide daily tasks into the important and/or urgent, called the “Eisenhower matrix”, understand what a great advantage this new state of affairs brings to the important tasks.
The important tasks are those that can never be urgent because they do not operate on a schedule, but without which life is not happy: to know yourself better; to really get close to your loved ones; to fall in love; to correct your flaws; to cultivate your skills; to enjoy friendships and collaborations; to ask for and receive wise advice; to spend time with children and parents; to create vibrant moments of soul communion with your life partner; to finally reflect on unresolved, postponed problems; to perfect a skill you were not performing well in; to read what you have long wanted to read; to repair dysfunctional relationships; to rebuild your body; to practice a hobby; to play, to joke; to apologise to someone you’ve upset; to regret your recklessness; to become more empathetic of your peers and to show solidarity with them; to help someone in need; to be grateful for what you have; to wake up…
That is, to come to your senses like the prodigal son, and return to what matters most.
The gift of time
In the current situation it’s as if we received a social bonus—a gift not in money but in time. It is that grace period that contradicts Benjamin Franklin’s maxim; in times of crisis or decisive moments, time does not mean money, but life itself. Not all famous sayings of well-known personalities are polished with gold, and “time is money” is rapidly de-monetising. Time is time—this is the revelatory truth of our times! He who aspires in times like these to enrich himself, instead of refreshing his existence, is not wise but foolish; for thousands of years he has received an answer in the revealed Word, “You have heaped up treasure in the last days” (James 5:3, NKJV).
In the current situation it’s as if we received a social bonus—a gift not in money but in time. It is that grace period that contradicts Benjamin Franklin’s maxim; in times of crisis or decisive moments, time does not mean money, but life itself.
We have been given a providential respite—a time of self-recovery, of personal improvement, which could completely change our future. It can be a time of correction, but also an unrepeatable time of divine Grace. It can act as a litmus test for relationships and interactions with those around you, for better or worse, for healing or wounding, for life or death. But it can also be the last peaceful time to review life—a small, quiet glass globe in a blemished environment. Let us cherish this time, as the watchmen urge in faith. Jesus Christ lamented the state of the city of Jerusalem in His day: “…you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:44, NIV).
Where do we run…home?
So what can we do to benefit from this limited grace period? Let’s prioritise daily activities and give up vanities, frivolous plans, and information overloading. Let’s keep our lives simple. Let’s introspect more often and set our lives in order. Let us give priority to acts of kindness and consideration, let us give up worldly trivialities and petty squabbles, let us fight bad habits and prepare our souls for future trials, for efficiency and relevance in the community. Finally, let us prepare to be appraised by our Creator.
Could we really make so many big improvements at once? Yes. Miracles are always at God’s fingertips; they are only miracles for us, just as news is only news for us.
Paradoxically, the path to the miracle—after we have done everything we can and have found ourselves overwhelmed by events—also depends on us. This path is prayer. We have been given much advice about prayer, this “application” that can be easily “installed” in our lives. For times like these, which take us by surprise, we are promised miraculous peace of mind, the one offered from the beginning, to anyone who wants it and asks for it: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, NIV). These words have often been quoted, but in times of hardship they can come to life in us.
The early Christians greeted each other with the most important things. Not just “have a nice day”, “keep well”, or “to many more”, but, as the apostle Paul wrote in his epistles, as did John in the book of Revelation: “Grace and peace to you!” (Revelation 1:4). Now we understand better what peace they are talking about; a spiritual peace, a saving peace, a peace that they lived—and a peace that the organisations, forums and institutions of this world will never be able to offer.
As for Divine Grace, it is up to us to prevent it from being reduced to a footnote in the books of history: “It was in the year of grace 2020, when…”
Corina Matei, PhD, is an associate professor at the Faculty of Communication Sciences and International Relations at Titu Maiorescu University.