Like you, I am beyond ready for this COVID-19 crisis to be over. I am ready to return to a normal life; I’m ready to go out to dinner with friends; I’m ready to be done worrying about how many people I love will be affected by this virus.
The other day, I found myself thinking (yet again), “Gosh, I wish this thing would just end right now.” Something about the urgency of that statement mixed with the fact that the pandemic is beyond my control opened my eyes to an attitude that had taken root within me: I realized I was being impatient and demanding.
Obviously, this pandemic is not the kind of problem I can solve with just the push of a button. So what really made me uncomfortable was the fact that I have become so complacent and comfortable with instant gratification. This virus is an aberration to modern life in the way it is making everything so inconvenient. Suddenly I began to notice all the different ways I let the desire for instant gratification rule my daily attitude and lifestyle.
We are in a season of waiting. And despite our inclinations, waiting is not necessarily a bad thing. Periods of waiting are good for us — these are times when life and growth can take place in hidden ways, like the way a tree buds with new life in the spring after winter.
Though this is an uncertain and stressful time, it can also be a time of growth in patience and perseverance. It can be a time of practicing the discipline of not fulfilling our every wish and want within seconds. We can work on turning away from the desire to seek what feels good right now and replace it with working to realize the hope of the good to come.
Though it is still a work in progress, I have formed a few daily habits to combat my personal complacency with instant gratification.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude
When I think of all of the things that are getting in my way, I can get overwhelmed with my list of complaints. At the end of each day, I physically write out in a notebook at least one thing for which I am grateful. This has helped me immensely by forcing me to acknowledge the light that comes out of each day — even (especially) if it had more than one frustrating component. This practice has become so embedded into my life that I am finding myself mentally noting throughout the day all the good things I encounter. The difference in my overall mood and outlook has become palpable in my everyday experiences.
Take on a weekly sacrifice
This is something I started doing at the beginning of the pandemic, and it has wholly challenged me to think and live beyond my own needs and desires. For one day a week — I choose Thursdays regularly — I give up something that I would normally do every day. For example, most Thursdays I find myself giving up chocolate, which is a true sacrifice for me. I always choose early in the week what my Thursday sacrifice will be, so there is no flip-flopping or equivocating when the day comes. Whenever I turn away from the temptation to sneak a bit of chocolate, I offer up that sacrifice for all those who are being heavily impacted by the pandemic, and that self-denial becomes a little prayer that connects me to others who are suffering.
Share needs in prayer
I know that I don’t always get it right. I stumble. I fail. I end up complaining about how I just want this pandemic over with now. I will continue to mess up, too. But knowing that the struggle is not mine to carry alone is a comfort in and of itself. I say a very simple prayer each day: “Lord, grant me peace and patience.” I always follow up by asking one of my favorite saints, Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, to pray for me. There is a whole crowd of saints who are very familiar with painful seasons of waiting — adopting any one of them as an intercessor is a way to find encouragement and to reach out for help.
Of course, if I could hit a button and make COVID-19 — and all diseases — disappear, I absolutely would. But the challenges of this pandemic can help us see more clearly where we have grown accustomed to the ease of instant gratification. And that recognition can help us better embrace this season of waiting as an opportunity to grow in hope.