Holding God’s hand through the uncertainty
Andy Bryant is learning to come to terms with the ongoing restrictions as we gradually emerge from lockdown, but help is at hand…
Life in lockdown was in many ways simple. The world shrunk to house and garden and one short walk each day. There was no pretence that this was normal but there was no alternative, so it just had to be got through. One day, it was clear, it would come to an end; it was so restrictive it could not last.
Living through the lifting of lockdown is much harder. It is both living and partly living, it is both a return to normality and anything but normal. On the surface things seem familiar but everything is different, awkward and just not how it should be.
So, shops are open and we are being encouraged to spend, but one-way routes, rules about not touching make browsing an unsatisfactory experience. Worship in churches is a step forward from Zoom but has people sitting apart and not singing, which makes familiar patterns of worship feel unfamiliar. Heritage sites are open but pre-booking and social distance hollows out the experience. We have welcomed the gradual re-opening of the world about us but the way it has reopened serves only as a reminder of how far from the old ways we have travelled.
There is a sense in which this partial re-opening feels worse than complete lockdown. It is a more potent reminder of what has been lost. Everywhere we visit speaks of the changed circumstances we face. It is a change that has no end in sight; this is the way it will be for many months, longer if a vaccine or treatment is not found. We are having to learn to live with life out of kilter and in many ways this is more troubling, and exhausting, than lockdown itself.
It is like planning a holiday to go and relax on a beach in the South of France and finding oneself in Amsterdam. The promise of golden beaches is replaced with a network of canals. Sun and sea is replaced by museums and flower markets, French cuisine is replaced by herring and Gouda. However hard it tries Amsterdam is not the South of France.
Part of me wants to stamp my foot and say, “It should not be like this”. But the most uncomfortable part of this gradual easing of lockdown is that there is no “should” about this. Life is now the way that it is and, no matter how much I may wish to huff and puff, it is not going to change any time soon. This is the way the dice has rolled and however much I might wish it was otherwise, this is they way it has turned out. Although unlooked for, this is the new deal.
As long as I go on about missing the South of France I will never learn to appreciate Amsterdam. It is different; it is not the destination I was hoping for. But if I can let go of that, Amsterdam has lots to offer. The canals are fun to explore, the museums are amazing, the flower markets are fascinating and there are lots of great places to eat.
Easing the lockdown does bring escape from the four walls of home. The shops are there for almost anything I might need. In churches I can be in the presence of real people in real time, not half frozen in a zoom call with a struggling internet connection. Once again, I can walk within the walls of my favourite Cathedral and experience its uplift and calm.
In the face of the unfamiliarity with which I am surrounded I need to learn the art of surrender. I need to let go of my frustration that things are not the way I want them to be, and learn to open myself up to new meanings, fresh insights, and different opportunities. In uncertain times I need to discover a new open-heartedness, willing to receive what new times and new circumstances offer me. Clinging to how it was leaves me closed down and doomed to frustration and disappointment.
The God who held all things in being before lockdown, still holds all things. Amidst the storms and whirlwinds, God remains the still point, the rock of certainty. Although the changed times may have damaged my compass, God is the creator who is able to work all things for good and for the Kingdom. I need to be present in the present and embrace the place I find myself, even if it is not like the past which I liked, nor the future for which I longed.
Amidst unfamiliar paths and through new landscapes I have to place my hand in the hand of God, accepting I may not know the destination, nor the timings, only knowing that to be hand in hand with God is enough. If all else around me seems strange, the unchanging love of God needs to be enough to comfort and reassure me.
This is the adventure we have been gifted. It is not necessarily the one we would have chosen. It cannot be avoided; we cannot go over or under it. One step at a time, it must be faced, and the only way I know is hand in hand with God.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay.com
The Revd Andrew Bryant is the Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral. He was previously Team Rector of Portishead, Bristol, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and has served in parishes in the Guildford and Lichfield Dioceses, as well as working for twelve years with Kaleidoscope Theatre, a charity promoting integration through theatre for young adults with Down’s Syndrome.
You can read Andrew's latest blog entry here and can follow him via his Twitter account @AndyBry3.
The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norwich and Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate between website users.