There’s an old Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.”
You can’t get much more interesting than the time we’re in right now. We’re ‘interested’ in finding out how long the lock-down will last, how many people will die, how many will be infected again when they’ve already had it and recovered, how many will survive and with what post-infection effects, what will the new normal look like in a year’s time, will there be a vaccine, will we ever eradicate it like smallpox, will we bring it under control like TB, will it mutate into a less fatal pathogen, will it come back again and again, year after year? And will ingesting a gallon of bleach cure us? (I’m joking. Don’t try this at home, boys and girls) Will the government survive, will the economy ever recover, how many businesses have already gone bust, how many more will follow? When can we hug again, or shake hands, or kiss?
Has there ever been such a time of uncertainty? Yes. There bloomin’ well has. How about when Adam and Eve found themselves outside paradise, fearful and inexperienced? And the wandering Israelites as they were captured and killed or enslaved? They must have been terrified about their future, completely helpless in the face of overwhelming power, full of uncertainty. And the apostles, bewildered by the death of their Master, hiding behind locked doors, afraid to go out….the future bleak and terrifying.
But I think that uncertainty comes as a shock for us because we have lived for so long as contented cats, purring on our velvet cushions. The people of the Bible always lived in interesting times, when life was hard and short and cruel and they expected only danger and hardship, while we have become complacent. And how. The rest of the world could face disease and poverty and war, babies dying at birth, children starving, genocide and brutality… but it was all always ‘over there’. We were secure. Western. First world. Safe. Foolish.
Tonight many of us don’t feel even a tiny bit safe. How deep did our security go?
This is from an article in the Times today and it really dragged me down for, ooh, at least half an hour. The writer is Janice Turner, considering the future of lockdown:
An enforced elderly lockdown, the former home secretary Lord Blunkett worries, may confuse the public. Could a measure designed for the old’s protection be misconstrued as protecting the public from the old, leading to anger if they’re seen out?
Certainly ageism, the last permissible prejudice, is never far away. Remain-ultras liked to gloat that Brexiteers were dying off, and good riddance, too. In Australia, coronavirus is called the “Boomer Remover”: in the US, gun-toting Trumpian back-to-workers talk of “sacrificing the weak”. You can foresee young workers, struggling with unemployment and poverty, lashing out: “We lost everything protecting you — go home!” Some suggest over-70s should live freely only if they sign away rights to ICU care if they get ill.
Going a bit OTT? Well, on Thursday morning, at ten past seven, as I came off the beach I was yelled at by a man of about, I would think, 50. Fit, very muscular, with a bull terrier on a tight leash, and a trekking pole in the other hand, he saw that I’d driven there, just a mile or so away from my home and he was furious. He yelled at me that I am disgusting, I should be indoors, and then he added something about England. I didn’t hear what he had to say about England, because he was walking away, but he was very Welsh so I don’t imagine it was a tribute to all things English. Should I have told him that I have had sciatica for 2 years and have been told not to tackle hills or stairs and I live – without a garden – on a hill? I didn’t even try because he was too furious to listen, too full of hatred and foaming spittle and I was just glad that the social distancing meant he did it all from several feet away. Why his fear and hatred boiled over just then I have no idea, I was nowhere near him, there was no one else on the beach, there was no danger. I discovered today, talking to a fellow dog walker, a man, that earlier that same day my shouty bloke had passed him and his wife as they were getting into their car, parked near mine … and shouty man hadn’t said a word. Bullies go for the people who are alone and older than themselves and, sometimes, women.
And that’s not an isolated case. Just the day before, another woman, a bit younger than me, was walking her dogs through the village and a man in a car (not the same man) wound his window down and yelled at her repeatedly to ‘go home.’ He wasn’t interested in the fact that she lives here, she is already at home.
So, will the future with all those unanswered questions about the virus, lead to even more vigilante hatred against those who are judged to be most vulnerable to infection? Will we, as Janice posits, become victims of anger if we’re seen out and about, and we’re over 70? Or will it be 65? Or 60? Will we wear stars on our coats? Are the old to be the scapegoats for an indiscriminate virus?
Interesting times. I’m not afraid of the virus. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m a bit afraid of infecting others, and I’m conscious that people are dying afraid and alone and unsaved. Sad times. And I’m quite wary of shouty angry men and the slippery slope to vigilanteism. Fear makes people angry and cruel. It’s not how I imagined seeing out my days.
Shouty man has unsettled me and some thoughts today have been dark. But fleeting. They’ll come back, of course they will. If I see shouty man again they may surface (what if he slashes my tyres? hits the dogs?) BUT this is when we discover how deeply we trust in God. A few months ago when I surrendered my life each morning to Jesus, it was a known life I was surrendering. Or it was a life I foolishly thought I knew. Now, I know that I am on the edge, as we all are, of a cliff , in swirling mist so deep we don’t know which way to step. But step we must because life goes on, until we are called home.
Do I trust God with my life in lockdown and during this pandemic? I do. I really do. Do I know that He will guide my feet? I do. And when I slip and begin to fret, I know where to turn. To my loving, living, present God.
Yesterday I was delivering shopping to lock-ins so I didn’t go down to the beach but I’ll whisper a little secret – come closer – I was sort of whistling in the wind, telling myself that I didn’t go down there because of the shopping and a busy morning, but secretly, between you and me and God, I was afraid to. Shouty man had done for me.
Even as I told myself that he hadn’t scared me at all, I knew it was a lie. He’d proper undone me.
But last night I found myself studying Hebrews and it took me to Isaiah, and a verse about the uselessness of man’s works…. and that reminded me of a catechism answer drummed into me as a child, an answer I still remember and love , love LOVE to recite…. all about the new covenant of Christ’s blood…. the mystery of faith…. and so this morning as I woke up I remembered that I stand in the protection of Jesus, washed in His blood, claimed by Him…. and that His protection is complete and all I need. Desperately dependant on Him and Him alone.
So this morning I was back on that beach.
And here it is, just for you, Poppit Beach at 7.05 when God ruled my world. Not Covid. And not shouty man either.
Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place. Proverbs 29:25 (TPT)