As the country slowly begins to open back up, I’ve noticed something about myself. As restrictions are loosening (again, slowly), I am noticing how I am becoming restricted (again). God willing, COVID protocols will slowly drift away. But “proper” protocols that bring tension in my life are drifting back in. As the masks are coming off my face, I find myself wanting to put one over my fickle heart.

Let me explain. It kinda needs to stay a secret. Please don’t tell anyone.

I really liked having excuses and reasons not to attend certain things. The past 365+ days have given me a “free pass” not to have to attend meetings, meet with particular people, go to certain places, or be at something the first thing in the morning. Know what I mean? I’ve been able to use COVID as a (real, legitimate) excuse to not do things I didn’t want to do in the first place. Though I blamed COVID (here comes the thing that needs to stay secret), I was really grateful I didn’t have to go/attend/be present/sit through something. COVID was a cover up. COVID was my excuse out of something I never wanted to do in the first place. The lie “I’d love to, but – you know – COVID and all” controlled the narrative. COVID wasn’t a lie. The “I’d love to” part was/is.

Now that restrictions are loosening and protocols are fading (or, at the very least it feels like they are and will be in the near future), my heart is being exposed. I have enjoyed having an excuse! There are things about pre-COVID church life I didn’t miss this year! There were “normal” annual routines and rhythms I was glad to avoid. Were there things I have missed? Of course! But, honestly, there were many things I loved blaming COVID for getting to avoid. As I pay attention to my heart, my motives, my intentions, the tension in my neck – I have to recognize how, in some instances, COVID was a convenient excuse. I have hated wearing masks (still do). But they metaphorically covered up parts of the real me that haven’t been exposed until now.

Maybe it’s just me, but I guess you may feel the same angst. What to do about it? Here are three thoughts: (1) Pay attention to your heart and be honest with yourself. Seriously consider motives and intentions and the dread that creeps in when a pre-COVID “something” arises. Let the Spirit guide you as you navigate these frightening realities. (2) Be intentional about what you add back into your life. If there are things you really don’t want to do and if there are things you did just because you wanted to be busy or couldn’t say no – remove them from your life! If you liked the schedule you kept during COVID, or at least some aspects of it, then work at maintaining it! (3) Don’t run from hard things. Let’s face it. Many things can forever be removed from our lives/schedule/calendar (see #2). But let’s also admit there are difficult and hard things we need to address head on. COVID made some hard things easy to avoid. Our hearts are now panicking because we don’t have that excuse anymore. As the masks come off, let’s face those things head on.

Please do not misunderstand. I am BEYOND ready for this pandemic to be in the rearview mirror. I am sick of restrictions and protocols and masks. But I am noticing something about my heart that needs to be addressed. As the masks are coming off, I am being exposed.

What are you noticing about your heart that needs tending to by the Holy Spirit?