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05.05.2020

Lockdown, Exile, and Working from Home

Last week, my housemate’s computer crashed an average of 16 times per day. This includes at least three times when the IT guy from her company was trying to fix it remotely. More than once, she declared ‘if only I was in the office this would be sorted so much quicker!’

She’s not wrong – and I’m sure that over the past few weeks, broken computer or not, many of us have had an ‘if only!’ moment, hankering for ‘the way things were’.

When it comes to home working, we are perhaps beginning to feel the strain. If our job is usually people-facing and highly interactive, we may feel that we are not being able to use our gifts and talents as much as we did previously. If our job is usually in a quiet, focused office, we may loathe the myriad distractions that working from home brings. We may be heavy-laden with childcare needs, other obligations, or failing technology.

Change is hard. It is particularly hard when you did not ask for it, and when it happens very suddenly. To find yourself in an entirely different situation or set up from where you were before, with very little warning, is a ‘sink or swim’ kind of moment. And I don’t know about you, but right now I feel like a toddler in a swimming pool who has just had someone confiscate their armbands.

In the Bible, we read of several people who find themselves in similar ‘sink or swim’ moments – moments where everything has changed very suddenly in a way they did not ask for or expect.

One such example of this comes in the first few chapters of the book of Daniel. The King of Babylon besieges Jerusalem. Daniel, along with a handful of other young men, is taken into 3 years of training to be a part of the king’s service.

Exile is not a pandemic, but Daniel’s situation bears a certain similarity to our lived experience today: a complete lack of control, a change of job and location, alienation from friends/family. Daniel, just as we are, was probably feeling scared, anxious, and tempted to dwell in the imaginary world of ‘if only…’.

And yet, what Daniel does is completely counter to anything he probably either wanted to do or was expected to do. He drew his boundaries (1:8), he prayed and trusted God (2:18), and then used his God-given gifts (1:17) to bless those around him (2:24-45) and to work for the good of the city to which he had been carried in exile (Jeremiah 29:7).

Perhaps today you feel like this pandemic has carried you into exile – away from loved ones, from routine, from security, from good health. What we see from the story of Daniel is that exile – whatever form it may take – does not mean God is not present. It does not mean that our gifts and skills are rendered useless, and we should go into hibernation. It just offers us a chance to readjust our perspective, set our boundaries, pray, and trust God. To take our God-given gifts into a new situation and offer them as a blessing to those around us. To seek the good of the place – house, neighbourhood, remote-working community – to which we have been carried into ‘exile’.

So today, may the God of Daniel give you the wisdom to draw boundaries well, the patience and the gifts to deal with a new environment, and a deep joy as you serve others in new ways. May we learn to pray and to trust God – his goodness and his character – no matter the world in which we find ourselves.

The final part of ‘A Prayer for Working from Home’ by Will Sorrell:

Jesus, my Lord and my friend —
hiccups in communication assail me,
deadlines loom dark like the shadows on my floor,
the deafening emptiness of this room threatens my confidence,
and I feel utterly alone.

Jesus, my comfort and my companion —
do not let me continue to consume the bread of anxious toil.
Prepare a table before me in the presence of my fear.
Shepherd me into pastures of faith,
streams of dependence,
and valleys of resting in your everlasting mercy.

When the time comes for me to close the laptop,
turn off the lights,
and exit the email,
empower me to want to do this all again tomorrow.
Help me see what you see in my work.
Help me see you at work.

Just as you have transformed my house into an office,
be faithful now to transform it into a home again.

I beseech you to do these things,
because I need you to do them,
because only you can do them,
and because you are good.

Amen.

Author

Nell Goddard