While we never would have chosen to be home quarantined for the last several weeks, there are, for some of us, moments of clarity and learning that we don’t want to lose once we return to our normal lives - whatever “normal” is on the other side of this crisis.

Being cut off from our regular routines and being threatened with a virus that we were first told would kill millions of American citizens has made us huddle together in our homes and think about what really matters. Realizing that, unless we changed our habits and practiced social distancing, we could catch an illness our best doctors couldn’t cure, gave us the chance to get our lives in order.

And a lot of us did.

We turned off the television and limited screen time for our children. We read books and told stories. We took walks through our neighborhoods and, honestly, met more neighbors in the last few weeks than in the entire time our families had been living in these neighborhoods. We’ve learned that, in the end, only a handful of things matter. Everything else is noise.

Now, some states are beginning to open back up, and we’re slowly crawling out of our caves to see if the world is still here. Soon, we’ll be going back to work, settling back into our previous routines, returning to our normal lives as if nothing had happened.

And we will have wasted a crisis.

So, how do we hang on to the lessons we’ve learned during this wilderness of quarantine?

To begin, let’s go back to the very beginning and remember human beings are introduced into God’s story as stewards. Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to care for it and to tend it. Most of us assume God gave Adam and Eve the whole world. He didn’t. He only placed Adam and Eve in the garden. While God retained ownership of the garden, Adam and Eve were managers.

The first thing the pandemic reminded us was that we’re only responsible for a very small part of the world. We’re not in charge of everything. We have a limited sphere of influence and responsibility. Our garden is only so big by so big. Everything else simply isn’t in our garden.

The first thing you have to do is to discover the limits of your garden. We do this by saying “yes” and “no”. Our “no” establishes the perimeters of our garden. Our “yes” determines our focus.

During the quarantine, we’ve had to say no to a lot of things. All large gatherings were cancelled. We couldn’t go to church or concerts. Shops were closed and we were told we could only get out of our house if we really needed to go the doctor or the grocery store. We had to say no to “going to work” and we worked from home. We had to say no to “going to school” and we went to school at home. Well, most of us tried to home school our children until we lost our patience and turned on the television to bring some peace back into the house.

And in saying no, we found out an amazing truth. A lot of things we were having to do without, we really didn’t need anyway. There is a huge difference between our wants and our needs. Most of the time, we’re so driven by our desires to possess, we can’t tell the difference between our needs and our wants. Not being able to tell the difference between our needs and our wants drives a lot of anxiety in our lives. American consumerism thrives on that anxiety. Do you not feel as pretty as your neighbors? Then you need this skin cream. Not feeling as vigorous as you once did? Then, you need this vitamin. According to our world, we are only one purchase away from happiness.

Our need to fit in and feel like we’re loved entraps us into all kinds of meetings and time consuming activities that suck the joy and peace out of our lives. If we didn’t feel so guilty, we would drop out of a majority of activities we’re involved in and spend more time with our families.

But guilt is a powerful motivator. It’s a demonic motivator, but it is a powerful motivator. Don’t waste the lessons of the quarantine. Get free of those things that don’t add meaning and purpose to your life. Learn to say no…and mean it.

Saying no isn’t enough. In Matthew 12, Jesus tells a story about a man who has a demon cast out of him. The demon, Jesus says, goes out into the wilderness and can’t find a better place to live. So, the demon returns to the man and — get this — finds the man “swept clean and empty”. The demon calls his friends and they move back into the man. Jesus ends the story by telling us the man ended up being worse off than before.

Does this describe anyone you know? They’re not doing anything wrong, but they aren’t doing anything right either.

We have to say “yes” to those things that matter. We have to focus our attention on those things that matter.

And honestly, there aren’t that many things that matter.

Our families.

Our friends.

Our faith.

Meaningful work.

A relationship with Christ that draws us into His redemptive work in the world.

Everything else is just noise.

This pandemic crisis won’t last forever. We will soon return to our routines and daily obligations. The great tragedy will be if we just get lost in the way “things used to be” when we paid so high a price to learn there’s a better way.

And there is a better way to live than the madness most Americans endure. Christ followers, more than anybody, should know that.

Christ has made us free. Let’s not submit to the yoke of slavery again.