It feels like the start of a new season – holidays are over, schools are open and we go again.
This season, though, feels a bit ill-fitting. We had a holiday, which we were very grateful for, but not as much time off as we’d normally have as part of the many who’ve been doing more work over the last few months and not less. Schools are open but we hold our breath to see which year bubble of which school will be sent home next.
We are collectively weary and more than anything, uncertain.
A good friend recently said to me that she is by nature an optimist who expects things to get back to normal soon, but with coronavirus, she is struggling to see how this will play out and how long it will all take.
Last week, as we started a new season of online church, our leader Tom spoke about acknowledging our sense of loss during these recent times.
It’s important that I am clear and thankful about what I have kept during this season. I haven’t lost anyone close to me to Covid. I haven’t lost my ability to live a healthy life – we did get that holiday. More than anything, unlike many others, I haven’t lost my job – although I have no sense what it will look like the other side of all this.
Rather than those fundamental losses, I feel my world, again like many others, has shrunk. For some, this is because of things they can’t do or people they can’t see. While this is true for me, what has shrunk and what I have lost, is more a sense of hope and vision for the future.
The barometer for me is what I am writing. Writing is my outlet, so what I am writing shows where my head is.
Early on in Covid, I wrote some blogs about the virus but after a while, it didn’t feel there was much new to say. At the same time, there was nothing else going on! I didn’t feel I had the headspace for the novel I was tinkering about with and upon reflection, I realised it was a project with very weak foundations. Instead, I indulged myself by writing a very silly sitcom pilot as a way of letting off some creative steam. Next, I am going to revisit some ideas I started earlier this year about my habit of building imagined versions of the future, which tend to take over my head and disappoint me when they don’t come true.
Now I may have a particularly overactive imagination but as conscious beings we all spend our lives trying to make sense of what’s going on around us and thinking about what might come next. And right now we are all going to struggle to get too far with that.
So as always, re-treading ground I’ve written about many times before, we have a choice how we respond. And as a Christian, I find once again that the point where my understanding and ideas are in ashes is (like it or not) the place where God can come in and do something new.
I wrote months back about the parable of the yeast (Matthew 13:33). Jesus says his Kingdom, the place he is, is like yeast. Yeast is not big or spectacular. Yeast is not exciting (unless you’re a baker). Yeast quietly gets on with its job. It transforms, stodgy dough into risen bread. God says add me to the mix and I will transform your life.
Another thing about yeast, as well as being small and unspectacular is that it doesn’t work immediately, it takes time, it’s a process.
In the Gospels, we read Jesus’ frustration that people always wanted another sign. Signs are exciting and spectacular but Jesus wanted them to realise the signs were there to point to him. At a time where life is uncertain, God offers to be the key ingredient in the ongoing process of life – our choice is whether we reach for him, whether we include him.
God is still around. God is still at work. He still wants to harness my creativity and temper my frustration. He still wants to strengthen the key workers, guide the scientists and give wisdom to the decision-makers.
Let’s not pretend this season isn’t tough and that we don’t get tired and disappointed. What is not needed here is stiff upper lips. Rather, God promises he is still present and faithful, and he calls us back to him: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)