Anne le Tissier, author of The Mirror that Speaks Back, mulls over lockdown: before and after ...
'My #coronavirus prayerful mullings from last weekend:
That’s how many are feeling, physically, mentally or emotionally. Wonderful how community care is already in action, and of course, our fabulous NHS.
To talk and share at a deeper level, facing those bigger questions in life.
What can I (we) learn? A question I am holding and want to answer for myself, perhaps others will too…’
Within a week, we’d been forced into lockdown, but like bookends these ‘mullings’ greet me again, as restrictions are lifting.
As coffee house drive-throughs reopened for business, images appeared of hands clutching long craved cappuccinos, while an elated frenzy of hair appointments transformed my social media feed into a public online diary. And then, on a call just yesterday, I heard the pain of an older friend unable to use technology, bereft of church community, lamenting why God still allows us to be apart. She is desperate to connect with humanity again; to be touched, hugged, comforted in the swell of a crowded church foyer.
That phone call in particular brought me up sharp. I miss my family dreadfully, none of whom live nearby, but aside of seeing them, I’ve no longing to return to the boisterous bustle of the world outside my front door. I am a loner and extreme introvert, easily overwhelmed by the prospect of coffee and chat after church.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I have grieved and prayed for the many thousands who’ve been bereaved, debilitated, abused or impoverished by coronavirus and lockdown repercussions. The news is fraught with heart wrenching statistics, each number representing a person no longer here; a spouse, parent, child, friend bereaved; increased domestic violent abuse and children in need of foster care; or skilled conscientious workers signing up for universal credit. I feel the burden deeply and pray into their pain.
But forced to reengage with a world I didn’t miss, I have learned that while I must guard the space I need to process and restore peace, I must also protect and keep in step with God’s heart in me for His people. Whether introvert or extrovert, God encourages us to keep meeting together, for it is through us He brings comfort, healing and help to those who need it (Psalm 34:18; Philippians 2:1–5; Hebrews 10:24–26).
The obvious opportunity was an increased connection with neighbours through a newly formed WhatsApp group, created to look out for each other’s needs, as well as share lockdown ‘funnies’. Over the years, we had enjoyed drinks and occasional meals together, but the group widened, forming new friendships and reinforcing relationships; prompting some poignant questions about life and pandemics.
Now, I must grasp this opportunity as faces reappear from behind mobile screens, to keep prodding gently, pushing the conversation beyond the safety of small talk, and seek wisdom to answer questions of faith, ‘with gentleness and respect’ (Colossians 4:5–6;1 Peter 3:15).
Another opportunity presented itself mid-lockdown through this reflection:
What have you found that you want to keep?
What have you found that you want to lose?
What have you lost that you want to find?
What have you lost that you are happy to bury?
It reminded me of Henry Ford’s quip: ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.’ Here was an opportunity to identify what God had been working in and through me, and make notes to self before I lapsed back into outdated patterns and priorities. My responses were wide and varied; from as mundane as changing which day I empty our compost caddies, to as meaningful as adopting a new rhythm of prayer— where I now pause with an afternoon cuppa instead of working through, to read a psalm and adapt it in prayer for my neighbours.
Then there were opportunities I assumed lockdown would offer, which in reality eluded me: from repainting the tired interior of our home, through revamping my static website, to drafting my next book. Unexpected demands taught me to pace my day in different ways than I’d anticipated. But here’s the thing. For years, I’ve often prayed Psalm 90:12,17: ‘Teach [me] to number my days… establish [the] work of my hands.’ So, I can’t complain when God answers my prayer with assignments I hadn’t planned.
What can I/we learn?
I believe I still have much to learn as the repercussions of lockdown unfold, but one verse in particular reassured my heart from the outset, and will continue to do so as I venture back out the door: ‘When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.’ (Psalm 75:3).
God is unchanging in the vacillating, heart-breaking, fear-inducing events of this world. His infallible character and promises are all we can truly depend on. Of course, we knew this before, but how easily we can confuse a sense of well-being with God’s goodness, and how important it is to strengthen an inward life of faith, that thrives independently of outward conditions.
In my book, The Mirror that Speaks Back: Looking at, listening to and reflecting your worth in Jesus (BRF, 2018), I reflect on how Paul learned to be content in all circumstances — in plenty and in want, as admired Pharisee and hounded criminal, while preaching to eager converts to being whipped, beaten, stoned and imprisoned — because his life was rooted in Jesus (Philippians 4:11–12). Perhaps this is a prompt for us to keep on learning that too. For as Proverbs also reminds us, there is ‘No need to panic over alarms or surprises, or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner, because God will be right there with [us]; he’ll keep [us] safe and sound.’ (3:25-26 The Message). Trouble will still come, but God reaffirms His promise to walk through it with us.
Anne is the author of several books, a long-standing contributor to Woman Alive and a much appreciated speaker at conferences and events around the UK. She has a passion to disciple Christians in their ongoing walk with God.
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