Why not? Sometimes we all feel a bit blue….. but blue can be beautiful
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had some wonderful mornings here in West Wales. Days to ponder and paddle, wander and wonder. But this is an unprecedented time, and it’s not necessarily a constantly happy time, and nor should it be. That’s the thing – happiness unalloyed is not good. It’s a daft thing, a pretend state of mind, a sort of mild insanity. Happiness is a reaction to circumstances and when circumstances change, it slips away. Of course it does. If a friend is dying in front of me, or I’ve just been made bankrupt, or my house has fallen down, I’d be insane to be happy. A blithering senseless idiot. If I was happy to be in the middle of a pandemic with millions dying… that would be madness. Joy, on the other hand… ah, joy is wonderful and faithful, steadfast, and it stays with us and in us whatever our circumstances. Joy is integral, it’s knowledge and trust, it’s an awareness of God’s goodness, whatever is happening around us.
Sometimes this last few weeks I’ve had to remind myself not to look for happiness, not to be surprised or disgruntled when there isn’t any, and to look instead for joy. And joy has always been there.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
I like the way the Passion translation treats that verse:
you bring me a continual revelation of resurrection life,
the path to the bliss that brings me face-to-face with you
When the lockdown seems never ending, and every day is long and empty, I’m often not happy, but I can be joyful, because joy is a gift from outside of me, not of my doing ; God brings it to me, and – as in that verse – his continual revelation of life with him is my bliss. Knowing him is bliss. Understated bliss. I mean, you won’t find me capering on the sands throwing my arms up to the sky in a state of soaring euphoria but that’s pretty much how the core of me feels, the innermost parts of me, the bone and gristle of my soul. And it’s a gift from God. All I have to do is accept it.
The daily challenges, of course, remain.
I had to go to the Post Office this morning, after putting it off for a week, and there I met a friend I haven’t seen for ages so we tried to catch up on the last six months as we stood 6 feet apart on the pavement in a freezing wind. As we spoke about planning for the future (when it comes, as I’m sure it will, this too will pass, the sun will shine again, etc etc etc) I observed that I’m becoming a bit agoraphobic; I avoid going into the neighbouring town just two miles away, I’m wary about visiting friends’ houses even just to drop off shopping on the doorstep, I fret and plan even the simplest trip to the bakery or the supermarket days ahead, and I don’t think I’ll ever go on holiday again. I’m not afraid of the virus, not at all, or of people, I’m just….. unsettled. Lacking confidence. Too long alone. The pal I met at the Post Office is a very active and inquisitive soul who, pre-Covid, went to London just about every week, booking for every new play and exhibition, meeting up with colleagues, wining and dining, nipping over to Germany and then Russia and holidaying all over the world, so that even a conversation with her was exhausting, but this morning she shared my agoraphobia, saying “I just can’t imagine ever getting on a train again!”
Is this what lockdown has done to many of us, or is it just her and me?
Tonight we have an online bible study and the screen will be full of smiling faces. Not mine. I will disable my video and just listen because, while I love seeing everyone, I don’t want to be seen. It’s a strange and unsettling shyness, and although I know where it stemmed from in the past, I’m struggling to understand why it’s re-emerged now and so very powerfully. Maybe having been solitary for so long, seeing a crowd of other people is a bit like stepping out from the twilight into a world that’s suddenly floodlit so that I’m blinded and disoriented by the contrast. Maybe.
But you know the absolute unvarnished truth? Ready for it? I think that maybe, just maybe, while I’ve been living quietly in my solitary twilight, my hair has become matted and my nails have grown into talons, and there’s hair between my toes, and carbuncles are sprouting on my nose, there’s seaweed in my ears, and all my teeth have fallen out. Maybe by turning off the video option I’m saving the world from a terrible sight. Which is jolly good of me, actually.
How nutty is that?
I think this is a funny old time for any of us to be making much sense. If you’re feeling a bit blue right now, and a bit odd, if you’re battling with ennui (isn’t that a lovely word?) please know that this is normal. You and me both. You are not alone.
And here’s some advice from the Word:
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
And what is totally pure, true, noble, lovely and admirable? Or rather who is totally pure, true, noble, lovely and admirable? Only Jesus. If you’re down, down, down, so far down you can’t lift your head to see the sky…. turn to him. Trust him with your sadness, trust him with the world.
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’