The idea of incubation has been…well, incubating, in my mind. It seems to me that we are in an incubation period of sorts. First, an important disclaimer: this analogy has nothing to do with a physical incubation–I am pondering incubation on a purely philosophical and spiritual level. I am not making any statement, political or otherwise, about the Covid-19 isolation, quarantines, lockdowns, or stay-at-home orders.
Now that I have clarified my position (or lack thereof), let me continue. We are all trying to figure out how to navigate this pandemic. Governments are trying to prop up economies, schools are trying to decide how to educate remotely, small businesses and families are trying to survive. We are all trying to hatch plans for survival.
I have heard many comparisons of our current situation to a giant experiment on humanity. To that end, I would have to agree. What else would you call a situation where you have only hypotheses, theories, and trials to make observations and gather information? The fact that nobody has a handbook and everybody is operating on the basis of trial and error does not necessarily indicate a conspiracy or malicious intent–it merely highlights the glaringly obvious truth: none of us have ever been in this exact situation.
As this worldwide experiment has unfolded, I wonder if we have become so obsessed, at least in the US, with arguing our opinion about how it should be handled and how we should respond that we have missed the point altogether. What if God has given us a gift in the midst of this curse? What if we viewed this season as an incubation period to be embraced rather than a prison to be escaped?
Think about an egg: a chick hatches when the time is ripe. It pecks its way out of the shell when it has fully developed and is ready to enter the world. Or consider a baby in its mother’s womb: if it exits the womb before the incubation period is complete, it arrives into the world fragile, underdeveloped, and at risk of severe illness or death.
We all know the importance of the safety of the mother’s womb and we typically fight for babies to stay in there for the full 39 weeks because we know what happens if they do not. We know the world outside of the womb and what is required for the baby to survive in it.
But to the fetus, it must seem dark, mysterious, constricted, and increasingly uncomfortable. It does not know it is safe. What if it just decided it wanted to bust out of there when it felt tired of not knowing what was going on? What if the chick decided to kick its way out of its shell because it was tired of being cooped up (pun intended)? Obviously, that would not bode well for either of them.
What if God wants to incubate us in this difficult season to grow us into something we cannot yet imagine or develop attributes in us that we do not yet know we will need in the next season? What if, rather than just surviving, I am meant to thrive and flourish?
Yet, I find myself and so many others simultaneously paralyzed and agitated into frenetic attempts to bulldoze our way out of this global incubation. What if we allowed ourselves to pause and intentionally reflect on what God wants to do in us and in this unprecedented era of history?
So the questions to myself that I share with you are these: what is it that God wants to incubate in me in this dark, mysterious, constricted, and increasingly uncomfortable season? What is it that God wants to grow me into so that I will be prepared for the next season? And what do I need to do in order to surrender and yet actively participate in that process? Can I trust God enough to incubate?
Apparently, there is a new genre of travel called immersive travel–at least there was, back when we could still travel. In this article, author Pico Iyer celebrates this mode of globetrotting, making this claim: “We’re most transported when we’re least distracted. And we’re most at peace – ready to be transformed, in fact – when most deeply absorbed.”
He observes how taking the time to become still–to incubate–and spend time within a space, allowing ourselves to be bound by a location, imbues us with a renewed capacity to see more clearly. Perhaps we can take a cue from immersive travel to learn how to journey through our current extraordinary period of uncertainty.
If we want to discern our next steps through a nebulous present, perhaps we should welcome this opportunity to incubate, so that when we are delivered from this tiny vestibule in history, we arrive into a bright future, blinking into the light, with clarity and vision for the next adventure. Do not squander this gift from God, for one day this incubation period will end. When it is too dark to see anything else, pause, let your eyes adjust to the darkness and look for the gift.
For ideas on how to do so, visit my Youtube channel for exercises that will help you incubate by connecting with the God who knows and sees all things–and who loves you completely.