If you will give yourself to study, you will easy every burden of life, you will neither wish for night to come or for the light to fail; neither shall you be worried or preoccupied with other things.
During this pandemic I have lived from my heart and my hands – I have been the emotional hub of our family. I have cajoled, cooked, cleaned, and complained. I have listened, laundered, and languished. I have baked, berated, and bribed. I have gardened, groused, and given up. I have protected my sanity by walking mile after mile in my neighborhood, completing several jigsaw puzzles, and rediscovering the joys of actual phone conversations.
Like everyone else, I have swung widely from absorbing every piece of news to avoiding all news. I have given in to fear and I have had moments of great faith. The search for toilet paper transformed into the search for sanity. I have reached out to those who live alone, and I have wished I lived alone.
But I have not lived from my head. Hopes of writing were dashed upon the rocks of family frailty. The emotional needs of my family triumphed over the emotional needs of my characters. First I stopped writing; then I stopped reading all but the fluffiest of stories. Creative concentration was replaced with carbohydrate consumption.
And then a friend asked me to focus on the story of Hezekiah. HezeWho? Part of my year long study of Isaiah, Hezekiah is the subject of Isaiah chapters 36-39. Suddenly I had four books open, note cards strewn on the table, bookmarks and page tags everywhere, and I was happy. I went from one translation of the Bible to another, from our study book to an ambitious and inclusive commentary by J. Alec Motyer. I traced Hezekiah’s history and the role of Assyria through the book of Isaiah. My mind found something to latch onto, and it came alive. For a few hours, I was engaged in an academic pursuit, and the fog that had descended around me began to lift.
It continues. This week I volunteered to lead the study. Now I’m deep into the conspiracy of the true authorship of Isaiah chapters 40-55. How could Isaiah possibly write about something over 100 years off into the future? How could he name both the conqueror and the liberator of the Jewish people before any of it happened? I sat outside reading and taking notes and listening to the birds around me, and I was happy.
I am an academic at heart. Studying and condensing material down into digestible nuggets is my gift. By combining ideas and synthesizing knowledge into a usable whole, I find meaning. To avoid learning and studying is to atrophy. And I cannot be the emotional hub of my family if my emotional tank is empty.
So… to that end, I will pick up my pen again and write. I will write blog posts, essays, poems, fiction, anything. I commit to 10-15- blog posts in the month of May. No one may read them. And that’s okay. They are for me, and by extension, for my family.