There was an almost audible sigh of peace on the beach this morning. If a sigh could be tangible, this was. For the first time in nearly three months the car park was open, so there was no one parking illegally on double yellows, or sneaking guiltily into the lifeboat carpark. Fellow dog walkers who had been unable to come because of the lockdown were strolling across the sands, full of quiet delight – Christine and Ken, Andy and Julie, Helen and Anne, Sue and Peter, solitary Alan, the woman in the orangey top and man who waves but never speaks, there was the girl with the puppy and an old bloke walking with sticks, and all the dogs of course, Murphy, Faith, Rufus, Toby, Nina, Marcie, and on and on and on… a steady trickle of dogs and owners stepping onto the wide sands, quietly thankful. Three horses, two ridden and one, a Welsh cob, unsaddled, trotting along for the company. A gentle morning of smiles and greetings and catching up.
We are learning to live with Covid, as we’ve already learned to live with ‘flu, the common cold and measles… maybe we will never eradicate it as with smallpox, or vaccinate against it as with TB, but we will live with it. We won’t hide away from it for ever. It’s hard today to be exuberant when over 40,000 people have already died in this overcrowded little country, but we can allow ourselves peace and contentment, thankfulness, a quiet joy in friendship. And we can make this a day of prayer for those who are in mourning, especially those who couldn’t be there as their loved ones died; praying for sisters and lovers and brothers and children and friends who couldn’t hug each other in grief, collapse into each other, prop each other up, give comfort. Praying for everyone left behind.
Beauty and joy walk hand in hand with sorrow.
I’m not known for gushing sentimentality but emotions will have their way and as I sit here , in sunlight, typing this, I am glad of other people. Today isn’t about only sadness, it’s also a day of remembering that people are born to love and to be loved, that they are worthwhile. People. Awkward, self-absorbed creatures who walk upright and do terrible things and love with ferocity and reflect absurdity and stumble and soar in turn. Them. Us.
How can I reflect my delight in people? How can I thank God for them? How can I offer this day to God in gratitude? Saying “You know what, Lord? I never ever realised how much I enjoy being with other people until I was no longer with them. I didn’t know they were a gift, even the difficult annoying aggravating ones, until they weren’t around any more.’ How can I give my day of quiet joy to God?
So far, I’ve read Romans 8, and James, and done a tiny (teensy weensy) bit of homework for tomorrow’s Bible study (Mark), I’ve done my crossword and quintagram and Lexica, I’ve handed a jigsaw to friends at the door, had an email from someone I haven’t seen for 63 years (63! Bloody facebook. It has a lot to answer for. And I’m not even on it any more), I’ve made banana bread for my granddaughter to take when she meets her boyfriend (yay! Another cause for celebration) and there’s a second one in the oven for me to take this afternoon on a visit to friend in her garden (yay! Ditto) and it’s not even 11.30 yet!
There are two things I’m really really good at – scrambled eggs, and banana bread. I won’t have a gravestone but if I did I would like it to read “She was loved by God and she made a great banana bread.’
My favourite sort of day. Just… you know… what’s the word? Content. That’s it. ‘Content’.
Delighting in the ordinary.
It’s been horrible for some people, this last 11 weeks, or 12 weeks, or whatever it was. Horrible. Even those who hug their solitude to themselves, like me, have begun to miss human contact. To be completely honest with you strangers…. it’s driven me half mad. But it’s done! We did it. And now we all hold our breath and hope, hope that discipline will continue, that crowds won’t gather, that we’ll keep on keeping each other safe, and looking after the most vulnerable. Freedom with responsibility.
I’m reading the epistle of James. I think that if I never heard another word of teaching or preaching, never had another moment of friendship with a fellow believer, never had a word of advice or was ever held to account again in my Christian walk, as long as I had the book of James, I would have all I need. In there we have honest, no-holds-barred pastoral care, guidance and honesty, acceptance and love, the way to live. God spoke to me in the Book of James this last week, scooped me up and put me back on my feet. I’m a bit slithery still, not totally upright and steady but, hey, this is me.
The book of James, divine, loving, accepting, uncompromising, the God of the daily, the patient father, God of lockdown, of the grieving, the God of friendship, the God of today, Tuesday June 9th, 2020, the God of banana bread bakers.
I wish I could sing. I would sing of the goodness of God.