Finding God in lockdown
It should be so easy now shouldn’t it? I mean in lockdown with a 70 year old, no distractions, just the time to build up disciplines of prayer and the vision I have of me in permanent retreat attuned to God. So what has happened? Am I the only one failing in achieving such desires? Susan asked me to share some of my musings. (No, not my excuses, for those of you on a more saintly path!)
Firstly, I have learnt from the experts to remind myself this is not a holiday situation and that the circumstances that are happening around us are not necessarily conducive to beginning new things, being creative or even making active use of all the time stretching before us so I need to be gentle on myself.
Secondly, I have realized that, as for the composer of the Psalms, in this period I am experiencing a whole gamut of emotions -sorrow, frustration, anger and sometimes moments of overwhelming blessedness. As a Christian I can feel all these and it does not make me any less a Christian! Every year Christians follow the journey of Holy Week with its suffering but they walk with hope and come out the other end with the Resurrection. This is the same hope Her Majesty the Queen has expressed in her messages of light in the darkness and that we will meet again.
In this time of lockdown, I have returned to some of the things that have brought me comfort before -Celtic prayers, Psalm 23, the familiar stories and rituals (however pared down) of Holy Week. However, I have also discovered that I have not always been able to find solace in the usual places. Just as in W.H.Auden’s ’Stop all the clocks’, sometimes I have even longed (in conflict with my deep love of nature) to halt the birdsong and the spring flowers, stem the onset of summer to a future time that is more in accord with new life.
However, what I have been sure of, as I have wept or wherever I have gone in the house or garden is that ‘God is in our midst.’ (Zephaniah 3:17) I spoke those words on Christmas Day. God is there alongside us in the suffering. As one of my lecturers said before lockdown, to the question Why the suffering? theologians may offer many answers that seem unsatisfactory but they are unimportant beside knowing God is in our midst. There is no escape from God After the resurrection Jesus appeared within a locked room.
At family@church on Mothering Sunday I was to talk of God putting his arms around us to comfort us and reading David Adams writing of our encirclement by God, it struck me God is in the two-metre space around me, currently separating me from other humans.
This lockdown is out of our control, we cannot individually alter its timing, we have to wait. How often has God required me to wait in my life, demonstrating that I am not the one in control? I should not try to fight it but wait with God.
And as I wait, I have tried to notice again the pleasure of simple things – the taste of toast the luxury of milk in my tea.
I have established a few new routines, mimicking the order of creation (made out of chaos)or the rhythm of the seasons (natural and of the church year)- doing a household task at a regular time in the day, joining Bishop Martin at Morning prayer on Facebook, walking further once a week whilst realizing that it is not a problem to deviate occasionally as we might do on a sabbath or a festival.
I have learned to receive kindnesses from others again. How much some of us like to give, forgetting that every time we want to give, someone has to receive from us. I have learnt that it is not all about me any more, not even my particular vocation. My role in this crisis will not be earthshattering – some phone calls, a smile to a passer-by, prayer for others in private. I try to remember if I am struggling with my feelings so may others and just because we are all at home, now might not be the right time for them to talk or for them to respond to my email.
And finally, when we all emerge from our cocoons, it seems that it will be hard for us to come out unchanged and how difficult do I always find change? Maybe then things will immediately be clearer to us or will it be only in the years ahead that we will be able to say exactly how we were reformed in this time? One thing I do know, I cannot possibly explain the miracle that happens within the chrysalis but I know God is in our midst at work now.
Diane Ekins Powell