Last week I was overwhelmed. Everything suddenly – quite suddenly – seemed undoable. A friend was seriously ill, the national news was unremittingly grim, the TV bombarded us with weeping newly-bereaved people, honing in on close-ups of exhausted NHS staff, sweating and tearful behind their masks and visors, and this brought my poor ill friend to mind over and over again. Helpless. Her devoted husband couldn’t go in to see her, there’s a grandchild she hasn’t met because of Covid, all we could think of was our dear friend surrounded by strangers in a noisy crowded ward, beeping monitors, gloved hands…… Other Covid updates took us into a mortuary where staff were defeated and wordless. I understood the motive for these images, to persuade covid deniers that this is real and the human cost is huge and heartbreaking. I understood, but by heck, it sent me toppling headlong into the depths, down down into a whale’s belly, as deep and as dark as I could go. Running suddenly from trust in God. Oh, intellectually I trusted him, I knew him to be faithful, but emotionally I was alone and shaken. So sudden.
And I missed my God, I missed knowing the immediacy and reality of him, it was like a sort of mourning, a sort of drowning, so I decided I’d pull myself up by the scruff of my neck… clamber out of that smelly belly, and swim with strong calm strokes towards the daylight. Superwoman. I would work out what was stepping between me and the peace of God and I would sort it. I forgot this one simple fact:
I knew my problem was one we all have – how to deal with life under lockdown. I’m no different. You’re no different. We’re all facing a new way of life and it’s gone on for much longer than we expected. The days are pretty empty, eh?
I’m not the only one to have been trying to fill the long shapeless days with stuff, give-us-some-any-old-stuff sort of stuff, so many are struggling with what the media likes to call ‘mental health’ (but I prefer to call it our spiritual and emotional well-being). We are not sick, or deluded, or psychotic, and our grip on reality is unchanged, but we are sad, reasonably sad, reactively sad, because of the new demands on our emotions.
And then comes the guilt – what about the NHS workers and the drivers, the paramedics, chemists, people who are working flat out? They don’t have time to moan, the luxury to be sad. What about the people struggling for every breath, you whining woman? But they were fleeting pangs of compassion – most of the time I was thinking about me, and how to fill the hours.
Here’s an image that I think reveals how I went about that: On Tuesday last week on my desk I had three books open (an NIV Bible, a Study NIV and a Wiersby Commentary), and my constant companion ‘Shaped By The Word’, plus Strong’s concordance on the Mac screen. Beside the books was a magnifying glass so that I could read the tiny teensy teensy cross references in the study Bible, a notebook for each separate study, pens and markers.
Remember the film Jaws? “We need a bigger desk.” I studied and read and planned and all my thoughts returned, relentlessly circling, I was exhausted, tearful. I sent an email to a trusted friend, someone wiser than me but kind enough not to call me an idiot “But I could spend all day like that and at the end of it not remember a damn thing! Aware of God’s grace and presence? Not really, no. Too busy for that. Longing for him, thirsting for him, thinking of him? Not really, no. Heart breaking. “
So, finally, realising I hadn’t taken this to God, at last I prayed. You think I’m going to go all victorious now and say that the answer immediately dropped down from heaven, don’t you? Hah! This is me we’re talking about, not Laura in Little House On The Prairie. I prayed and handed it over to God… gave it, ooh, thirty seconds or so… then I grabbed it back and started again, searching for the answer…. and when you search you can sometimes grab hold of stuff shouting “Eureka!” and kid yourself you have the answer to everything. I thought THE answer had arrived, dew-drop fresh from heaven… All I had to do was drop my blog from the daily round and my mind would be uncluttered. I would then turn my newly minted and receptive mind to the study of God’s word and I would hear every single thing he had to say to me and be filled with inexpressible joy. Obvs.
I wrote a farewell blog, spent all day on it, and within two hours of posting it I had been persuaded and scolded into taking it down. It seems that I am to continue blogging. I can’t argue with pals from South Africa (fancy calling me selfish! Me! As if!) and Wales and America and Holland, and strangers (now friends) from England, and my lovely daughter who even told me what my husband would say (“Och, Luce, sleep on it”) and I think maybe they were right. Maybe their responses were the answer to my prayers. Maybe seeing that I wasn’t listening to him, God sent the message through them. They’re a lot ruder than he is, and I listened. The blog lives to fight another day.
I still need to find a way out of this Covid maze I’ve wandered into, some way that will glorify God, and I’m still praying for guidance, but I’m not counting off the hours quite so much, and there’s a big hole in the belly of the whale so that I can see daylight sparkling high above me on the ocean waves.
So, there you go. Humble pie. I was wrong. If you read that farewell blog in the two hours that it was posted, my apologies. Here I am.
I’ll finish with a quote from an email I had from a church friend “So often your blogs reminded me of psalms where David has a right moan and then comes around to praising God for his unfailing love and faithfulness.” And that made me smile, because when I first started this Luce Thinking blog I was going to call it ‘And Yet ‘ or ‘Nevertheless’ because of the verses in Habakkuk 3
Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
But I decided against that title because I wasn’t sure that every blog would follow a pattern, or end up victorious – and yet, and yet, and yet, this one does. Which is amazing because nothing has changed except my heart.
We are still in the grip of the pandemic, families and friends are grieving, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, this is a sad time for everyone, and a hellish time for some, we see no end, we still don’t understand the enemy we face, and yet and yet… I will be joyful in God my saviour.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38