It is late March 2020. I open my MomAgenda calendar. Every line is filled. Each child has at least one practice each day. I methodically begin to scratch out commitment after commitment.
I no longer check my calendar some days because there is nowhere we have to be. There is talk of how nice this slower pace is, how we needed this. What if we learned from this and didn’t return to the pre-COVID pace of life?
“Just imagine,” we all said, “we would be better parents. We’d be better spouses, co-workers, and friends. We would be better people.”
It is March 2022, two years after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. I open my MomAgenda. Every line is filled. Each child has at least one practice each day. The days are fast paced, punctuated by “Did you get your water bottle and snack?” and “Have you done your homework?” and “Get in the car!”
Everything has changed since the COVID pandemic began, but as we move from pandemic to post-pandemic, it appears that absolutely nothing in my daily life has changed.
Learning from the Past
We often feel pressure to learn from our mistakes, to do things differently and better. Due to the pandemic, a significant percentage of adults changed the way they worked or quit jobs altogether. People reevaluated the way they spent time and resources, and rightfully so.
As we ask ourselves the obvious question, “What have you learned from the era of the COVID pandemic,” it is easy to answer based on appearances. Sure, maybe you did need to do one less private lesson for your child’s sport; maybe your spouse could eliminate a couple work trips; perhaps you added back more family meals around the table.
But the reality is, no matter how much you might have changed your ways or your family’s pace of life, nothing in our hearts has actually changed.
As far-reaching and seemingly powerful COVID-19 was, it could do nothing to cause positive or negative change in our hearts. Absolutely nothing. And neither could we. For all our efforts to effect positive change and better habits with a pandemic-forced reset, we cannot change what really matters.
The Heart of Change
Man’s natural heart, deeply broken since the Fall, is hell-bent on its own way. We place self on the throne of our hearts. For many of us, the pandemic revealed our idolatry. But our biggest problem is ourselves. In the words of Bible teacher Paige Brown, “Circumstances shape our sin, but they don’t cause our sin.” Our sin is a reflection, an outward and inward manifestation and testament, to the state of our heart.
Eliminating or adding an activity (or three or four) may reveal or disguise our sin, but it does not impact our sinful nature. My calendar did not make me get frustrated with my children when we were trying to get to the next activity, but the natural state of my heart did. Be it pride, arrogance, control, it was there all along. Conversely, my good efforts for my family, as good as they may be, do not eliminate my sin. No matter how many family devotions I may add to our family calendar, I still cannot do the work of renewing and recreating my heart or the hearts of my children. Only Jesus can do that.
When Everything Changed
Broken, selfish, and sinful from the Fall in Genesis 3, our hearts need a Savior, a surgeon, who can create a new heart in us. Our hearts do not require a little nip and tuck. They require a complete and total transplant. Colossians 2:13 tells us we were “dead in [our] trespasses and the uncircumcision of [our] flesh .”
When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again three days later, we were given a hope that lasts beyond the present circumstances. We who were dead were made alive in Jesus. A heart of stone was replaced by a heart of flesh.
In Jesus, we get not only a surgeon but a friend. But you cannot have one without the other. When He does the real life-changing work, he is not deleting line items from a calendar. He does heart-replacing, heart-recreating work.
Jesus changes everything that the pandemic could not..
The Heart Exchange
God is not after a life free from stressful carpools or full calendars, God is after your heart. Psalm 51:16-17 says, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” I can sacrifice our activities and sit at home with my children singing Kum-ba-yah all the day long, but unless I surrender my entire life, repenting of the ways and times I put myself and my desires on the throne of my life, absolutely nothing will change.
The words that the prophet Samuel spoke to God’s people after they demanded an earthly king are true for us as well. Like them, we race after the things of the world that we believe will make our lives genuinely better, happier, safer, and easier. But like the Israelites, we also belong to a God who desires us to return to Him.
“And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. […] Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart” (1 Samuel 12: 20-22,24).
The same God who was after the hearts of the Israelites in the Old Testament is the same God who is after a post-modern, post-pandemic mother of three. And He is after you too. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). When you inevitably become worn thin and stressed out again, when you fail to save yourself or your children from the uncomfortable-ness of life, the Lord doesn’t ask why you didn’t learn your lesson last time. He delights, instead, in your bringing your broken self to Him.
Our children, too, see all the ways we appear to have changed, and they see the ways we have not changed at all. When we repent and turn to the Father with all our shortcomings, fears, failures, and joys, we point them to the author of lasting change. By going to Jesus on our smoothest days and our train-wreck days, we point our children beyond the circumstances that come and go. We point them to God, who takes a heart without hope, and does the life-changing and loving work of creating a new heart—a change that only He can accomplish.
“My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend, so I’ll run to the Father, again and again, and again and again” “Run to the Father” by Cody Carnes