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Embracing the Inefficiency of Life During a Pandemic

April 23, 2020

Wheaton New Testament professor Dr. Esau McCaulley shares how he’s embracing the disruptions that come along with a stay-at-home order.

Esau McCaulley 380x253COVID-19 has turned many into multitaskers—especially the parents of young children.  

With schools, daycares, and many workplaces shuttered until further notice, parents are completing their work at home alongside their school-age children. Staff and faculty at Wheaton College are no different.

“I’m now a homeschooler and a professor at the same time,” said Assistant Professor of New Testament Dr. Esau McCaulley. He and his wife, Mandy, a pediatrician, have four children under the age of 12.

The additional role and the change in his work environment have altered McCaulley’s routine. 

Rather than teaching his undergraduate students in the bright, airy classrooms of Billy Graham Hall, McCaulley is teaching his courses from his basement via Schoology and Zoom.

He misses the camaraderie of his colleagues in the School of Biblical & Theological Studies and the energy of the classroom. 

“For me, the classroom is a living, breathing thing,” he said. “You can see by students’ body language when they come to class tired or they’re growing bored of a certain topic. You can’t read a remote class in the same way.” 

380x253 McCaulley childrenAs McCaulley teaches downstairs, his children learn upstairs, running their pencils over school worksheets or their fingers over the screen of an old iPad lit up with educational apps.

Short spurts of work have replaced long spans of lecture preparation. “I can’t go downstairs and close the door and work for eight hours,” he said. “Realistically, I can work for 20 or 30 minutes before a fight breaks out upstairs or one of the kids needs help with their work.”

He also doesn’t have lengthy periods for theological reflection these days. But even so, McCaulley has managed to publish some of his thoughts on the pandemic in a New York Times op-ed, and in an article for Christianity Today

The arrangement is difficult at times. Asked how he and his wife are handling the disappointments and the disruptions of pandemic life, McCaulley said, “We are embracing our inefficiency.”

For instance, they’re trying to see the interruptions as opportunities to love their children—for example, accepting that one son is clingier than usual these days.

Right now, McCaulley says, the biggest lessons he’s trying to pass along to his children and his students are that the old truths still apply. Jesus is just as trustworthy in the midst of pandemic as he was before.

“We live in a culture where we think we can fix everything and we can bend the calendar to our will,” he says. “This virus is reminding us of is something that’s always been true—ultimately we are not in charge. We should pray and be responsible, but ultimately we need to trust the outcome and the future to God.”—Emily Bratcher