From Under The Sea To Social Distancing

Chris Yost on a sub

Rev. Chris Yost reflects on how lessons learned during his time on a submarine can help us all during isolation

Rev. Chris Yost is the senior pastor at Wesley UMC Greenville

I have lived 423 days underneath the ocean. The longest time I have gone without seeing the sun even once was 53 days. That will become important later on as I write this. While several of my shipmates will have longer service than that to their account, I earned my dolphins and thereby a lifetime right to claim my story. I served in the U.S. Navy for six years, four of which I was actively deployed on a submarine.

Many among us are struggling to figure out how to navigate daily life. A good friend of mine recently asked me, “How in the world did you live away from everybody and everything for months on end?” I will share a few observations with you which may help you make decisions on how best to navigate these days in all of our lives.

Without our regular distractions, many of us will struggle as to how to manage this temporary, yet possibly long, ordeal. I want to start by saying: Feel empowered and know. What you make of this time is in large part up to you. You have been given a rare gift, a pause button for an otherwise hectic life. Be intentional how you use this time. Will you grow academically? Develop deeper relationships with loved ones? Learn new skills? Will you finally consider things in your life long pondered, yet rarely truly explored? Will you recognize that, finally, you do too have enough time to grow closer with God? I would encourage you to not waste this opportunity. You may not be able to change what you are going through, but how you go through it is up to no one by you and God.

Chris Yost nowAccept that this is what you have to do. Now, I volunteered to serve, and I’m happy for it! That never made leaving for sea any easier. I could have whined and cried about what I was missing out on, but how would that have helped?

Arguing or bemoaning this situation will only build up resentment toward who knows what. Besides, it isn’t like God did this, nor is it somehow anyone’s fault. It is, however, the reality in front of us.  Accept the reality, this is what I am doing.

Which leads me to: Explore the reason why. Why are you doing this? I viewed my Navy days as a way to make a life for myself, a way to earn a place at the American table and to do my part for others.

Why are you sheltering? You, too, are benefiting yourself on one level and totally taking care of other people at the same time. Explore that, own that.

Getting to sea allowed the chaos of shore preparations to go away. Frankly, the routine of being underway was a welcome relief. A part of that regularity came from quickly establishing a routine. Keep that routine for a “work week” of time and enjoy a Saturday- and Sunday-type experience. Wake up on time, make your bed, for goodness sakes get cleaned up and do your hair. Go to bed on somewhat of a schedule. In this season of life, maybe you can make a nap a part of your schedule.

Ensure a daily time with God is one of your first activities of the day. God always has the resources you need for the day, it is up to you to seek and access those resources. If you have not read a devotional before, this is an excellent time to start!

Write down and accomplish at least two or three manageable tasks per day. Making your bed counts! Perhaps it is walking the perimeter of your house every day. Take one room of your house each day of the week and deep clean it. Pick a drawer that you can go through that has been sitting idle for a while; clean out the old junk one drawer at a time. If this house isolation goes on longer, there other habits you may develop, but this should keep you busy for the first couple of weeks.

I also encourage you to find a way to document these days. Perhaps with a video journal (vlog), a written journal, with a voice memo system, typing up some kind of a letter to yourself later, etc. Identify a few measurable things that you can track throughout the duration of this quarantine to give you a sense of progress past the trials you faced before. Remember how I said I spent 423 days underneath the ocean? How do you think I know that :-). I know that now because I wrote every single day down while I was at sea.

Identify two perhaps three people with whom you can honestly share how you’re feeling. You do not need to fix each other’s situations, but you do need someone with whom you can express concerns, celebrations and have a little accountability for your sanity right now. Chances are you are about to do some “deep thinking” and you need some people who you can share that with. For those of you who have wondered why people who serve in the military together have such deep and lasting relationships, this is why. In the Navy I had a few people with whom we shared every part of our lives, no holds barred. And for better or worse, we take those stories to our graves.  If you do not have someone in mind, start out by calling a few people every few days, at some point you should develop an affinity for one or another.

Keep your focus on today and the tasks which are right in front of you. Do not get consumed with thinking too far into the future. Let the future take care of itself. Make it through today.

Be creative and find a way to serve someone, without being asked, each and every day. This may include a random phone call to someone who may appreciate being uplifted. You may write a letter to someone with whom you haven’t spoken in a while. Perhaps you know someone is interested in a topic, and you find an interesting article, story or link to share with them so they can learn more about what they’re interested in. Get outside yourself and serve someone else with no expectation of reward or acknowledgement.

If possible, find a book, article, etc. you can read/experience with another person or a group, and have an ongoing conversation about it for a given length of time. Check in and see what each other thought about what you learned.

I hope you picked up on two major themes: develop a measurable routine and invest in other people. Next thing you know, 53 days have zoomed by and you get a glimpse of the sun, then you submerge for another 28 days and, voila, you are done. That was my longest stretch by the way, 81 days at sea with about an hour on the surface and a glimpse of sunshine. I hope this helps. By the way, the above picture was taken during the 30 minutes or so I had topside during that patrol.

Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2020