Lingering or Languishing?

Languishing or lingering? A similar phrase caught my eye recently as I thought about this past year and the effects of the pandemic. Am I languishing in my time with God, or am I lingering and enjoying His presence?

I like to start each morning with sitting and staring, with quiet, listening, lingering. It readies me to read; it readies me to hear; it readies me to connect; it readies me for whatever the day may hold. Lingering with God and His creation is a spiritual discipline I’ve practiced for several years. But it was slipping.

What changed? Why was this very good habit not quieting my heart, feeding my soul? Why was it suddenly hard?

I didn’t need to adjust to working from home. That was my norm.

I didn’t need to adjust to homeschooling. Our nest is empty.

Ministry looked different, but ministry was happening.

Still, “minor” shifts created a new normal with sizeable outcomes. Cyberspace, instead of roads or airplanes, connected me to others.

Connecting with my grandkids switched to Marco Polo and Google Hangouts.
I ordered groceries on the small screen of my cell phone and picked them up without ever leaving our car.
Ministry was by Zoom.
Texting passed along quick and easy answers.
My blog, Echoes of Grace, became my ministry lifeline.
Group emails replaced personal interactions.

Screens even dominated my Sunday morning. I could “attend” our church (in my pajamas!) and then transport myself 1,000 miles away and listen to my son preaching at his church. Screen time became common—and perhaps too easy.

Then, one morning, my website crashed. Google wouldn’t let me into my email. Mailchimp suddenly didn’t recognize me. I crashed too. My lifeline had been snapped.

And I thought back over those long pandemic days. I was actually connecting with more people than before. But was that good?

In January, we took an island vacation. My computer stayed home, and even my cell phone was quiet. Every morning, I sat outside with my Bible and my journal, lingering with God, listening to the sounds of creation, experiencing the warm breeze, relishing the view. I especially enjoyed spotting a bananaquit, a bright yellow songbird.

But when we returned home, my life went back to screens. And I began sensing what was different from pre-pandemic life.

Lingering with God wasn’t happening quite so much. Perhaps languishing, that feeling of stagnation and emptiness, was a more correct descriptor. It was harder to enjoy the peace, the quiet that our deck or my favorite chair with a fire in our fireplace offered each morning. I found myself antsy to get to my computer, and so I did. Languishing was leading; my writing was no longer coming from the sacred place of lingering with God.

Our January vacation was a reprieve, and it was good. But those brief weeks did not counteract the many weeks and hazards of screen time.

The pandemic had affected me more than I realized.

Lingering was stunted. It had become too easy to quickly move on. My desk subpoenaed me, and I answered its call. Working on my computer is necessary to fulfill the calling God has given me, but that computer work is fed by lingering with God. When I don’t enjoy my mornings of lingering, the words I type on my computer do not accurately communicate the messages God has been speaking to me—messages that come from lingering.

Seeing those words together, languishing and lingering, shocked me into insight, caused me to remember what I was missing, and invited me to return.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength”
(Isaiah 30:15 ESV).

These days, my computer still beckons, and I still respond. But God reminded me of the importance of lingering with Him. I needed to return to my spiritual discipline of lingering with God and allow that to inform my desk time. 

How has the pandemic affected your times with God?

Adapted from “Lingering or Languishing,” Echoes of Grace, June 24, 2021, Copyright Sue Tell, May 2021, July 2021.

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