Here is a piece I recently wrote during the lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic. In essence, cut yourself some slack. (Originally here).
Have you noticed that nature is carrying on regardless during our crisis? Here in the northern hemisphere leaves are appearing, the air is warming, and shoots of new life are emerging from the soil. With the reduction in pollution there is trembling joy in spring growth, in clean air, in birdsong. I have taken to watching a live feed of an African elephant park from the corner of my eye as I work from home, and while my leek, pea and bean seedlings push up out of the soil on the window sill. Life wins.
May we take time to 'en-joy' nature as it persists. May we preach to the birds, and may we also take time to listen to them preaching to us. May this glimpse of a cleaner, quieter world change our actions and teach us how to inhabit this planet with greater care.
Do not be afraid. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Suggesting ‘just stop being anxious’ to a troubled soul is rarely well-received, but let us not hear these ‘do nots’ as startling, guilt-inducing commands but rather let us allow the soothing tenor and comfort of the voice to convince us into responsibility. Peace, whether of our own minds or in our communities and countries, never just drops into our lap. It has to be built, 'peace by piece' as it were. It takes discipline of thought, the quiet, consistent sitting-alongside of others, and the will to believe that peace is possible.
May we nurture the seed of belief in peace by our thoughts and our actions however small, however unseen. May we learn to move and stretch our bodies so that peace percolates from our heads to our toes. May we consider deeply our acceptance of the cycle of life and death, and know that the roots extending from that seed of peace extend into both.
I saw a tweet recently that read something like, ‘My wife and I are playing a lockdown game called “That’s not the way we do that”. There are no winners’. For those in some degree of lockdown with others, even (especially) immediate family, the rules have changed. Negotiation of space, noise, time, food, and managing anxiety take immense energy, grace and patience. And then on the other hand, those self-isolated alone are being forced to develop the patience to wait for a time when they can again be hugged or share a cup of tea with a friend.
May this experience teach us grace with each other and imagination to find ways to accompany those who have to be alone. May it also prompt us not to turn a blind eye to those trapped in abusive homes or living isolated and alone as part of their ‘normal’ life.
Reaching out in kindness has become a feature of this time. We see neighbours speaking who have never spoken, offers of help between strangers, hundreds of thousands volunteering their time, rainbows in windows, clapping, and the many, many phone calls and attempts to teach video calling to those who can barely operate their TV remote control. These are familiar stories.
May we also be aware of the need for kindness towards ourselves, not underestimating the impact of living through a time of global trauma, and allowing ourselves to rest, to be less productive, to not compare ourselves to others, and to care for our own souls so that we are better placed to care for others.
Our energy, brain space, money and time are all limited. We have to make considered decisions as to how we use all of them and so it can be a challenge to be generous. This time is making us think more carefully about how we spend our money, and which companies deserve it. We are also thinking anew about how to be generous with the skills and time that we have, seeing truly that we receive more than we give in uncountable ways.
May we be thoughtful and generous in supporting companies, charities, ideas and movements that serve the common good and promote the wellbeing of the earth. May we look for new ways we can serve that common good in a manner that brings us deep gladness.
The disruption of routine, practices and presences in places that are sacred to us forces us to consider what signifies the essence of our faith. Celebrating Easter from home meant the loss of physical presence in church along with the connection and rituals that brings. What does it mean for us to be faithful to a tradition or particular theology in these times? What does it mean to be faithful to God? Are these the same or not? How might we keep the faith amidst change, allowing flexibility and uncertainty to feed our faith rather than threaten it?
May this time of adaptation give us confidence in the consistency of a loving God. May we be granted imagination and creativity to express worship, and to connect with that Love, in unexpected and life-giving ways.
Goodness but don’t we need gentleness at this time? Change and uncertainty makes us spiky, and we can end up hurting others and ourselves. Any trip to the supermarket can cause fear of scarcity to bubble up and make us aggressive and irrational. None of us is immune to that virus.
May we forgive ourselves when we mis-speak or mis-step, or take too many bags of pasta. May we not ask too much of ourselves, and yet ask just enough to give us pause before speaking, typing or acting out of a place of fear. May we know the gentle hand of Love upon our shoulder and may we breathe deeply into the gentleness that resides within us.
Are you learning a new language? Baking home-made bread? Creating artistic masterpieces out of household objects? If not, why not? Are you proud of being more productive during your lockdown? Are you defiantly less productive? One thing we are learning from engaging with others about their experience now is that we are all managing it differently. What is helpful for one person may be entirely unhelpful for another. We can be quick to look at what others are doing or not doing at this time, and presume to know the burdens they are carrying, the complexity of their minds and lives.
May we be self-controlled in responding to others’ activity or lack of activity in this time, avoiding judgement in favour of grace and an appreciation of our different wiring. May we be charitable in our thoughts and responses.
The greatest of these. We wonder if and how our lives, relationships, beliefs and practices will be the same after the pandemic. We wonder if there will even be a definitive ‘after’. Amidst the challenges, may we look for the opportunities. We are outside the box – how can we now think and move differently? New relationships and communities are springing up – how will we now love more richly? Which issues will become unimportant and which will we discover to be the real soil where we are rooted?
We are experiencing just a mere taste of the fragile, uncertain and dangerous life that many displaced and oppressed people of our own country and across the world cope with long term, with no ending in sight. How will we turn the challenges and disruption we are experiencing outward to give voice to an empathetic, fervent call for justice. How will it impact the way we live, relate, move, give, and love?
May love be the wolf we feed.