Looking Back, Around, and Forward this School Year in a Pandemic
School just started and it’s not what you’ve ever imagined college to be like. Instead of moving into the dorms, you’re stuck at home. Instead of all the welcome events with free food at the beginning of the year, you’re attending one Zoom call after another. It’s easy to focus on all the things we’re missing out on this season.
If you’re like me, you may be struggling with FOMO, worry, and complaints.
While it's important to acknowledge what's hard and mourn what we've lost, it's equally if not more important to recognize the gift of the pandemic as the new school year begins. Perhaps there are unprecedented opportunities God has for us during this unique season.
We're in a season like no other. We've been taken out of our norm, so it's the perfect time to look back on our lives before the big interruption (AKA COVID-19 pandemic).
What do you miss the most? What did you appreciate about your life? Recognition of what I miss—coffee shops, amusement parks, getting together with friends in person—has helped me realize how much I took for granted. It’s an invitation to cultivate gratitude: to acknowledge all that we may not usually appreciate.
What don't you like? How do you want to live differently? For me, reflecting back, I saw for the first time how hectic my life was. It was like I was driving 90 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour speed limit, zooming past sites I never noticed. My speed of life prevented me from living the life God intended for me, including relationships he wanted me to pursue.
As you begin college, how do you want to live differently? College or any major life change is a good time to start fresh, but the pandemic provides a whole new doorway to living differently.
While we can be tempted to look inward and fixate on ourselves and our problems during the pandemic, we can also decide to look outward. As I wallowed in self-pity, whining about my family being trapped inside all day (especially with an active six-year-old!), a Facebook post caught my attention. A doctor in India said something like, “social distancing is a luxury,” given most people around the world do not have the resources to live in more spacious conditions, making social distancing literally impossible. I was convicted of my myopic perspective in comparing myself only to those who are in my immediate network.
What would life be like if we try to notice what others are going through? What would it mean to broaden our perspective? While this may be a hard season for me and most of us, it is likely harder for many others. As I begin to look around, I notice the poor getting poorer. Many people have lost loved ones. Black friends are feeling the oppression of police brutality in an extremely painful way. International students are struggling with not being able to enter the U.S. or return home for an indefinite length of time. Who do you see? What opportunities do you notice? Hopefully, this season will cultivate deeper empathy, righteous activism, and compassionate initiative in all of us.
With the wisdom gained from looking back and insight gleaned from looking around, now I encourage you to join me in looking forward. How are you going to live differently? What new ideas and people does God want to bring into your life? Who do you want to become a year from now?
Use this season to expand your horizon, to meet people you wouldn't otherwise meet, to know God in a way you haven’t before. Ask God what he wants for you and how he desires to transform you.
Allow this global epidemic to remind us of our global connections and learn from people across the world. A great way to grow our relationship with God is to hear from global voices. God is a global God, and those of us who are followers of Jesus need to follow him across the globe. Learning from others around the world will inevitably help us know God more fully, and as each of us view God through our particular cultural lens. Sit at the feet of teachers from around the world through lectures and writings. Initiate conversations with people from other countries—on campus or elsewhere. Become a global disciple, a follower of Jesus who takes into account God’s multiethnic and multinational nature.
Think globally. Dream big. Don’t just dream the same dreams you’ve always had for yourself but dream God’s dreams for your life. I guarantee it’ll be better than you could’ve imagined.
Currently, Eva serves as an Associate Director in the International Student Ministry department, helping all InterVarsity chapters engage with international students. You can support her ministry at donate.intervarsity.org/donate#895.