A Hard Factory Reset

Big Life Changes Made During the Pandemic
Child holding moving boxes.

I cannot find the function to use my cell phone as a wifi hotspot. My spouse’s phone, which is nearly identical, has this capability and I need it to use the internet while we’re still in transition. Using my data to search the internet I find out the truth: it is going to take a “hard factory reset” to recover wi-fi hotspot function on my phone. This will return my phone to its original settings, wiping out all my photos and data from years of using this phone, in the process.

My Family’s Re-Set

In many ways, our family’s move—precipitated by the realizations of the pandemic and enabled by our relative privilege—is a hard factory re-set for our family’s “settings.” We loved the metro area where we lived and reveled in all the cultural events and extensive park system available to us there. We built a local support system, especially when we had kids, since our families were so far away. But as I juggled two kids in distance learning, my work, and everything domestic, in addition to my spouse working overtime in the increasingly stressful environment of professional medicine, we experienced deeply ambivalent emotions seeing photos in WhatsApp of my parents doing puzzles.

None of us were thriving, so all it took was the surprise discovery of a beautiful 1904 home, 5 minutes from my parents, for us to decide to uproot. Both of us have found versions of our work that can be done remotely. I suddenly have twice as many adults sharing parenting. We are sharing the cooking and care for our home again, like in the “before times.” We know we are missed and will miss deeply the good friends we cultivated—yet hadn’t seen in person for a year—but there are other transplanted neighbors on our new street who also moved in the last year and a half.

I cannot recall another time I have been on the cutting edge of a trend, but my family is certainly not alone this time. Americans are on the move, for many and various reasons. Some are making lifestyle choices to have a larger home or yard since remote work has now proven possible. Others are moving in with family due to job losses or the need to care for family members. Some are not changing locations but changing jobs (especially in service industries), deciding that the pace or demands of their previous jobs are not sustainable. There is a domestic migration afoot, and among other areas, it is changing the face of our congregations. But it is also a pivotal moment to connect with God.

Clarity: A Gift of the Spirit

I experience God in clarity, in a bodily and spiritual peace when a decision is made and my spirit is calm because I feel aligned with the Holy Spirit. When I was in the third grade and my parents told us we were moving, after crying a great deal, I remember a sense of peace descending upon me. I recognize it now in adulthood. We know—as difficult as moving is, in so many ways—this is the right decision. That settled understanding gets us through the angst of separation while my spouse wraps up his work, and we wait for him to join us. That peace bolsters us when we wonder exactly how all the parts of our income will fall into place or how our relationships will shake out in this new reality.

Clarity or peace of mind are gifts from God, and I want to give them their deserved miraculous power even in the midst of all the upheaval. As we emerge from our pandemic cocoons with different levels of caution, we will have to hold in one hand the grief of those who will not be rebuilding our communities with us because some have moved, left for a myriad of reasons, or even died. In the other hand, we hold a sure and certain hope that the Spirit is moving even in this, and perhaps the clarity of those who have made big life-changing decisions is a gift of the Spirit unleashed among us.

Once we have experienced this clarity, this peace, we ought to be able to recognize it again, and that is most certainly a gift to the Church universal, to have listeners attuned to the Holy Spirit’s call to do hard things, the right things that never were considered until major upheaval caused us to reassess.

What would it mean for the communities bidding beloved members farewell to celebrate their clarity, even while expressing sadness or loss? Those relocating to our communities may bring with them a gift of clarity that would be of great benefit in our congregation’s times of discernment. Those who have upended their lives intentionally can coach us on the hard and rewarding ends that justify the move. In many ways the church needs a hard factory re-set on what it means to be followers of Jesus and prophets for justice in this century. Now is the time to rewrite the rules for how we are going to live into the next phase.

Your Turn

What could a listening session with some folks in the congregation or community who have made big life changes recently be like? Brainstorm with another leader or two in your context about who has made big changes, and how you might invite them to share their experiential wisdom or what clarity feels like.

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Lee Ann Pomrenke

Lee Ann Pomrenke

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