When we were dating, my husband would occasionally quote these lines to me, from the movie “The Jerk.” The Steve Martin character says to his girlfriend:
I know we’ve only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half.
Romantic, I know!
But apart from joking with a significant other, this quote strikes me as a perfect description of how life feels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some days fly by with projects that go well and energy to clean up the ever-present messes in my home. But that is more the exception than the rule, as most days drag on with whiny children and bleary eyes and an unending chorus of fights and squabbles.
Three months into the pandemic, in June, I was still the happiest of hermits, particularly since I had a baby in March and was grateful that I didn’t need to get back to my old pace of life. Those first three quarantined months felt more like one month to me (or perhaps one month and four days). Now, though, every day feels roughly like a week, and just last weekend I said to my husband for the first time, “I’m not sure I can make it through this.” The weeks and months stretching out before me with remote schooling, limited socializing, and cold weather seem daunting, to say the least.
Here’s a rough outline of my day: an active baby who is a full-time job in herself greets me with a gorgeous glowing grin before motoring off in search of any small item to put in her mouth. I have four other children in various states of education or lack of it, and though I try to see them as a group (parenting advice given to me by a father of eight), they still manage to pull me in many different directions. An effort at homeschooling occurs between 9:30 and noon, with some days of school a beautiful time of obedient open minds and other days a disastrous excursion into the darkness of juvenile defiance.
Most days, of course, are somewhere between those two poles. I somehow conjure lunch to appear on the table between 12 and 1, occasionally telling myself that potato chips qualify as vegetables. Things move v e r y s l o w l y until 5:30, when my husband gets home and takes the baby, and the other kids have screen time. That hour zooms by as I try to get dinner on the table, and my precious focused minutes drip down the drain. We eat at 6:30, and the pace seems normal from around 6:30 to 8:30. When I’m finally alone for the evening, usually by 9:30 after several post-goodnight-kiss visits and questions from my kids, time starts moving quickly again. I fight off sleep so I can enjoy the stillness of the evening, trying to keep my eyes open so I can soak in the quiet and think about something besides the daily grind and the fact that we have no plans for tomorrow.
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day…Therefore, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.2 Peter 3:8, 14-15 NRSV
I know that I’m not the only one for whom time feels flexible and changing—now fleeting and precious, now exhausting and belabored. God, who created time, uses it as a tool, which is why the preposition in verse eight of the above passage is important. It’s not “for the Lord one day is like a thousand years” but “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years.” When we walk with the Lord, we are not some kind of super humans who are able to escape time with its ravages and delights. Rather, God can use time to mold us. However we feel or whatever thoughts burden us in a particular moment, we should seek patience and peace. If those remain our goals, we will be able to savor the highs and endure the lows of these long dark days: the days of the pandemic that we long for an end to, the days of Advent as we wait to welcome Jesus, and our waiting for Christ’s return, which is what Peter writes about above.
Perhaps at some point I will look back on these days and wonder where the time went, the feeling of a thousand years suddenly compressed into a day, the wonder of the incarnation overtaking the weariness of the wait. In the meantime, I pray for patience and peace for each of us plodding through as best we can. Some days our only comfort may be that the Lord is with us—while that is enough, God often shows up most intimately in the connections we have with others. When your time of blessed retreat ends and you find yourself still waiting, like me, reach out for commiseration and connection to the Body of Christ that surrounds you every day, whether that day feels like a week, a month, or just like a day.