The following was written by Sarah Denley Herrington.

What a time to be alive!

I’ve been comforted and inspired by the frequency of seeing a gracious word here and there on social media. But it gnaws at me, the guilt I feel when I don’t do enough. I recently decided to get on Facebook (which is always a good decision) and respond to this meme that’s been going around saying that if you don’t do all of these things (learn a new skill, start your side hustle, etc.) you’re lazy. Its perspective is absurdly privileged. The truth is, we’re experiencing collective trauma. But I’m convinced that if I don’t take people to task on Facebook, I’ve done a disservice to those around me who are struggling who could be comforted by my hot take. Sigh.

I recently listened to a podcast in which the guest, Celeste Headlee, who wrote a book called Do Nothing shared research about how, when people were asked their hourly rate for their work before listening to a beautiful arrangement of music, they said the piece lasted too long. The piece was three minutes.

I stay at home with my three children and homeschool them, so my hours have no such worth. And yet, I’m constantly thinking about time, work, and what Headlee called the “cult of efficiency“. And more often than not, I’m tying it to my personal worth, in conscious and unconscious ways.

I realized almost immediately when we began streaming church that, for the first time, I could monitor how much longer church would last. I felt an odd sense of control and also an incredible sense of guilt. I told myself that a large part of operating on countdown mode was my anxious personality and my unruly children who unsurprisingly seem to behave less well in the comfort of their own home, watching a screen than in the confines of a pew where some (very small, in their case) amount of decorum is expected. I also reminded myself that this wasn’t specific to a worship service. I often find myself fixated on how many episodes are left in a season of a television show or how many pages are left in a chapter of a novel. I am unquestionably a neurotic person living in a neurotic age. I did feel such satisfaction hearing about the musical piece that, at three minutes, was just too long for folks.

One thing I did manage to catch last Sunday was our pastor asking what we were grieving. I paused the service and asked my children. The first thing my big kids both said was New York. We had a trip scheduled this month. We were going to spend the last part of Holy Week there and I was planning on attending a conference that I’ve missed for the last several years and that, in very real ways, sustains me. The children were mostly going to enjoy revisiting their old favorites in the city they once spent a year and a half growing up in and sharing it with their baby sister who has been to visit once but doesn’t remember anything about it. I had tears in my eyes. What a better use of our time than all the Pinterest and home improvement projects I was scheming about and mentally writing on a list.

This hasn’t sucked entirely. In fact, we’ve been some of the lucky few who have really enjoyed this time. We’ve thrived. Largely, I think because I decided VERY early on that I did not have the energy to erect arbitrary and artificial frameworks in our days. I knew that attempts to block schedule things like “art” and “exercise” would be fruitless with my crew and would result in mutiny.

But it was hard to wrap my mind around at first. So I did the thing — I grieved it, the structure and the tidy, predictable blocks of time we operated in, for however long this would last. You can be damn sure I grieved the three mornings a week I dropped my favorite three year old off at the Methodist church preschool with the pithy, if occasionally preachy, church signage and completely precious director who gives the children lollipops with very little restraint and toddler buddies whose names filled our days. You can also be damn sure I did not grieve the multiple nights a week on the soccer field. And now we mostly just do what we want.

But the thing that has been hard has been feeling like that’s enough. Like it’s enough for me and my children and my husband (when he’s home from his essential job in the health care field that he doesn’t like to be fawned over for) to just be.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about this “historical moment” and this “current moment in time” and one that sticks out is this “present moment.” It just seems so difficult to be present in this present moment — mentally and emotionally and spiritually. I’m certainly here physically but sometimes that feels like about all. My preteen is experiencing the onset of teenage ennui early and my little boy who is nine but developmentally about seven recently asked, “What even is this life?” And my little one, who has more energy than the other four of us combined, has been missing preschool and the sibling run-around in the afternoon and evening. We are so in our feelings. I feel the tediousness and mundaneness of this vocation on an entirely new level. I so often feel the numbness, the dull ache which I’m terrified is the depression I had finally gotten a hold of in the past year.

When I get sad and lonely and afraid, I am reminded of a great comfort and that is that Jesus is present in this present moment. When I am distracted and impatient and at the very end of my rope (or roll of toilet paper), God is in this mess beside me.

Our pastor reminded us of another fabulous truth on Easter Sunday. She said “In Christ’s resurrection, we experience the liberation from saving ourselves and the liberation from praising ourselves.” But man, do I find myself going back to those chains. I need a daily (hourly?) reminder that my worth is not found in a failed (or unattempted) house project and I also need the reminder that my worth is not found in a successful one.

For the past decade, God has used my children to show me this truth and in 2020, He is using a pandemic to show me.

Praise God for the days when I check everything off my list and for the days when I am unable to accomplish a blessed thing. And praise God that my worth is tied to neither.