'Being Close to God With My Fragmented Time': My Faith Life in Post-Pandemic Time

A watch in the sand
A watch in the sand
By Barnabas TianMay 6th, 2022

Everyone is busy nowadays, and my family is a typical example of this society.

My wife is a kitchen helper at a kindergarten. She arrives at the kindergarten at 6 am every weekday to help to prepare breakfast for hundreds of kids. Getting off work at about 18 or 19 o’clock, she would be too tired to do any housework.

My daughter is a senior middle school student. Though the policy of “easing the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for students undergoing compulsory education” seems to free her from burdens, she tells me that now the involution in schools is absurd. She has to attend online courses at home due to the pandemic. She would wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning to start her practice. And as a proofreader for a website, I have to proofread the news on my phone or computer from morning to evening. I would read each word carefully so that no mistake would be found. Then how could I find the time to read the Bible systematically and pray dedicatedly?

Suddenly I remembered a saying of Lu Xun, a famous Chinese writer, “Time is like the water in a sponge, if you squeeze, you can always get some.”

Every morning, I tend to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, as it is already a habit for me, and I now no longer need any alarm. I dress myself quietly and go to the kitchen to prepare for the breakfast and wash all the vegetables for the day. Then I go to the prayer room with the Bible and a notebook, letting the Holy Spirit remind me whom I should pray for. And that’s how I start my day with God’s words.

Then the time is sweet for me to talk to God, though sometimes I may need to prepare a cup of warm water for my daughter and cook gruel, and then go back to pray. When I’m reading the Bible, I would estimate the time, such as when I need to turn down the fire, and when I need to put it out.

I don’t know whether I’m dedicated enough to this, but I don’t think that the time to pray must be a whole uninterrupted period of time. If I don’t do these things to take care of my family, there may be dissatisfaction or anger. The morning prayer would take away the chance to sleep late, but it’s totally worth it. In this era, everyone is very busy. But we must keep connecting to God in the morning. Though taking care of my family would take some of my time in the morning, I still feel that I’ve been connected to God and I’m grateful for that.

Commuting is a very good chance to learn something new about God. I seldom take the bus or the subway, for these places are noisy. But if I ride a bicycle or something to and from work, I can listen to something about the Bible, like sermons or hymns. I’ve learned many hymns and listened to many sermons on my way to and from my work.

Sometimes, I would go for a walk after work. Walking along the paths of some parks, I would marvel at the beautiful world that God had created, with prayers full of gratefulness and praise. In the sunshine, I would walk in the meadow, with God in my heart.

A few years ago, it was very easy for me to find time to be close to God. I had been a cashier for many years. The daily routine involved making a deposit in the bank. There were queues at banks, and it often took an hour or two. I would begin to get restless. I was eager to go back to work and complained about the bank staff being slow and customers jumping the queue. But then, while I was waiting at the bank, I’d copy the hymns I wanted to learn, open the page, and focus on the beat, the score, the notes, and the lyrics. Before I knew it, it was my turn. While waiting, my anxious heart was calmed, and I had learned hymns. Joy and peace filled my heart instead.

And now I began to write for the Lord. In fact, it takes only small segments of time, for I need to squeeze out the time bit by bit. In fact, the most difficult part about writing is finding out what to write. I often get stuck, for many days, and can not write a single word. Then I need to find a quiet place and pray to the Lord to know how I should speak for the Lord. 

And often, inspiration comes when I am riding on the road; Or in bed in the early morning, or in the dead of night when my wife urges me to go to bed. 

If I choose to put down the new idea at that time, or even say, “I will write it at work” or “I will write it tomorrow morning”, then the inspiration disappears without a trace. So I must immediately stop what my body wants to do, and no longer move forward, or do not go to bed, and immediately come to the Lord, pick up a pen and paper, and start writing. 

Because if I do not grasp the flash of inspiration, I will lose it and won’t know what to write even if I rack my brain. 

In the current society, TikTok and other social media apps become popular on the Internet precisely because they adapt to the psychological characteristics of people’s distraction and lack of much time in the “fragmentation” era. Many people spend precious time watching short, meaningless but funny small videos that last less than a minute or even in some cases about ten seconds. Everyone is busy, but we just keep watching them, until the dead of night, with a lot of time wasted.   

“Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.”(Nehemiah 2:4) 

When Nehemiah, the cupbearer of the conquered Israel, was suddenly questioned by the king with a sad face, his heart must have been terrified, because if he gave an incorrect answer or misled the king into thinking that he was endangering the king's safety, he would surely be beheaded. But Nehemiah, at this critical moment, prayed to God the Father before replying to the king. 

This tells us that no matter what happens, our hearts should first turn to the Lord for guidance and help. This has also become a secret for me to cope with the impact of the “fragmentation” era. Although my body is busy, and my mind and eyes have to experience one after another jumping, irrelevant and even urgent events, no matter what happens, I would first ask my Lord from my heart, pray silently and commit to him, and communicate with him in my heart. In the age of fragmentation, I seek a “fragmented” connection with the Lord, practicing “pray without ceasing” anytime, and anywhere. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) 

The pandemic has changed our lives, and even our faith, and let us go deeper and deeper, to the Lord, to tear open the layers of the shells, to grasp the “indispensable”, that is, a peaceful heart in the deepest part of our lives. Although we are busy with work and life, although there are countless pieces of information, and all kinds of business disturbances, although many chores grab at us and compete for our time and energy, we must still give our hearts to the Lord, we must worship him with heart and honesty, and we must bring all the resources of our lives together to live for him and put them before him. We are in Christ, the branch rooted in the true vine of Christ, and our bond with Him is in every minute and every moment. Amen. 

Note: This is a freelance article written by a Christian from Henan province. 

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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