Who would have thought it? After spending a year and a half developing a devotional approach to faith in the ‘end-times’ , we have something which is both a dry-run and a brutal wake-up for the abruptness of change and the non-resilience of everyday life.
As someone in their late fifties, with asthma, and since my mother lives on her own, 300 miles away I’m aware of being a step closer to uncomfortable thresholds.
When I drove away from my mother’s house after a long-timetabled visit last week, I had to pull up and let the tears pass that ambushed me after waving goodbye. Every time could be the last time. That’s always the case But we’re just a step closer. As for myself, I’ve had a wonderful and fulfilling life: but my children are not remotely ‘settled’ yet. They need me to stay alive for now.
As I’ve described myself, in terms of my carbon footprint, as someone ‘of unclean lips amongst a people of unclean lips’ (cf Isaiah 6 ) so too, today I am someone nervous and confused amongst a people beset with nervousness and confusion.
The Manse is becoming a bunker and a film studio as I invest energy in replacing face to face visits with an online presence which I hope can be no less provocative.
In a very short time, we are looking at how to be more interactive too.
As the measures to respond to the virus take hold, perhaps with much more effect than the virus itself (- what will be the impact on those dependent on food-banks, on refugees; how many people will come to the end of their lives alone because community had been put on hold?) – amongst the most worrying development is the way that religious observance and community can be shelved and shuffled off as non-essential. And accepts this with its tail between its legs.
Poke your nose into the scrum of a supermarket, even at 8am, and you’ll see every reason for spiritual guidance and reassurance: having begun last year to order ‘ethical’ toilet rolls online, (and taken an order the week before last) I’m expecting the burglars to leave the electric bikes next time they break in, and make off with the more attractive contraband!
We also seem to be observing what used to be caricatured as the masculinity of society: the complete inability to multi-task. We can do the virus, but only if we forget the climate. But the bigger, if deceptively less acutely present emergency of the climate and environment has not gone away. Not that it has ever been taken with the seriousness of this real, but – yes, almost manageable – crisis. Suddenly no one bothers about plastic any more.
Yes, really, this is a practice run, or perhaps ‘work experience’ and hopefully with a bit of breathing space the far side in a few months, though there will be loads to learn each day, especially about responsiveness.
In terms of theological insights: one which was very dear to my late wife is this: God never restores. (cf the final chapter of Job). There may be good times ahead, though we will never ‘go back’ to how things have been. So:
Live each day as if it were your last.
Why? firstly, because it might be – and actually, when has that not been the case?
But secondly, get used to that idea, and that each beautiful experience that we yet receive is to be savoured and honoured with gratitude.
Joy in each day, prayer in whatever mode.
As I noted recently: the worst and most misleading thing in the conversation of the snake and the first people in the Garden of Eden was the comment “you will not die”.
Without that realisation, of our mortality, we won’t get round to living either.
Love yourself as your neighbour, your neighbour as yourself, and the Earth, because we’re part of it!