Reverend Danielle L. Bridgeforth is an ordained preacher, writer, and encourager. She serves as senior pastor of the Church at Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia. Reverend Bridgeforth holds an M.Div. from Virginia Union University, a J.D. from Howard University, and a B.A. from James Madison University. In 2018, she published her first book, a devotional, entitled Vantage Point.
When I was in seminary at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, one of the early lessons we learned was to identify the lens through which we understand scripture. We all have certain lenses—our race, gender, age, life experiences, etc.—that impact how we read and understand biblical texts specifically and God generally. If we are not aware of our lens, we can end up misunderstanding what we read. This misunderstanding can cause us to misapply spiritual principles to our lives.
This notion of how we read the Bible based upon our particular lens can be expanded to how we read our lives and circumstances. When asked to interpret the COVID-19 pandemic through the lenses of gender, ethics, and religion, I thought to highlight the struggle for power and agency, in the workplace and beyond, that women have been engaged in for a long time. This struggle has been magnified during the pandemic as everyone has had to adapt and adjust to new schedules, new platforms, and new perspectives about “hard work” and whether we are doing enough.
This struggle has been magnified during the pandemic as everyone has had to adapt and adjust to new schedules, new platforms, and new perspectives about “hard work” and whether we are doing enough.
Too many women have been consistently told that enough was not enough. Instead, we have had to do more than enough. We have been made to stretch our work days, often splitting it between time in the office and time at home, just to keep up with our assignments. The fact is that for too long, women have been forced to maintain outdated and imbalanced rituals of efficiency for the sake of convincing their male counterparts of their worth and value. At every turn, woman have been required to prove that we could have it all (work, family, and community involvement), when men have never been asked to choose between being successful at home and being successful in the office.
Now, after a year of working virtually, after months of refocusing on concepts like rest and balance, and after reprioritizing being over doing, we know that long hours in a certain place do not make one more productive or more successful. We—neither men nor women—should have to sacrifice our quality of life on the throne of busyness and stress. We should understand that such a pace is not only unreasonable and impractical, it is also unnecessary. Enough really is enough. We can do our best, live in balance, and still achieve success without always being busy, exhausted, and frayed.
We—neither men nor women—should have to sacrifice our quality of life on the throne of busyness and stress.
Thus, as we consider how to “build back better” let’s agree to not go back to normal. But instead, let us go forward. Let’s stop making women feel guilty for wanting to be great parents and great CEOs. What can assist us in building this new normal? Religion. It must be said that for recent generations, our faith traditions have not been countercultural, but have repeated the societal message that more is better. Our pulpits have not always raised high the standard of a Holy God who took the time to rest and thereby model for us the necessity of it. No, we have asked full-time and lay ministers and leaders alike to keep doing more and more all while sacrificing their greatest asset, themselves. It is not only unkind, but unethical to allow this to continue. The paradigm must shift.
We should be allowed to harness our energies, our talents, and skills so that we feel better, stronger, and more productive when exercising them, not less so. It is disheartening to work hard each day and yet arrive at the end of those days unfulfilled and drained. Unfortunately, this was the reality for many of us prior to the pandemic, and even during it. Now is the time to reimagine how we use and relate to time. Now is when we must realign ourselves with the Creator who said from the beginning—before we had jobs, families, or even names—that we are good. Now is the time to refocus upon from where our true worth is drawn. It comes from our internal disposition, from our understanding of self, and from our appreciation of the fact that we are a very important part of a bigger whole.
Now is when we must realign ourselves with the Creator who said from the beginning—before we had jobs, families, or even names—that we are good.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives forever. The youngest to the eldest among us have been impacted in deep and hopefully meaningful ways. We owe it to ourselves and to one another to learn and grow from the year that has been. The pandemic—and the orders to isolate, separate, and stay-at-home that followed it—has given us the opportunity to determine anew who we are and who we want to be. Those questions cannot be fully answered unless we take a serious look at the ways we have pressured women—from every aspect of society—to live out of balance.
It was never true that more is necessarily better. It was never a good idea to think that you were required to be perpetually worn out in order to prove your worth and value. Then, the pandemic came and everyone had to stop, look, and listen. What I heard, not for the first time, but in a way that caused me to finally pay attention, is that enough is enough. It is time to restructure our world so that joy, fulfillment, and balance are experienced by all. This is part of the legacy that we should seek to pass along to the next generations. Will you help me?