A layman’s progress

Monthly reflections from Terry Hawes, lay preacher at St John’s

Let’s hope 2020 really was a year like no other.  Just as the sun broke through the covid clouds, another storm brewed up – deadly variations of the virus.  Just as we looked forward, escaping the clutches of 2020 into a brighter 2021, more misery.

Our lives float downstream on the current, until we run onto the incoming tide, at which point we are stuck between 2 opposing forces, both beyond our control.  That’s really annoying when you’re all grown up & like to be in control.  Although we’re stuck between the lockdowns of 2020 & the hope that 2021 might bring, we’re not still – the waters are very turbulent & it feels like the boat could tip over at any time.  We spin around looking backward & forward one after the other.

And that’s how we often live – looking back at the old stuff; trying to re-interpret the bad & fondly reminiscing over the good.  Then we look forward, maybe in hope for a brighter future, or in anxiety about what the future might bring. 

The boat of course is an image, not many of us actually float into the incoming tide & tip a boat over.  But we all suffer the turbulence as the everyday nastiness of life clashes with the good which is all around us.  People walk in without wearing masks while you’re out shopping.   Drivers cut your bonnet off when you have priority, or someone cycles past on the pavement with no warning, maybe on the phone.  Turbulence comes to all of us at some point, maybe at 4am, head spinning between the night & the day, too anxious to sleep but too early to get up, when the past bears down on you, or the future is a beckoning dark place.  But then later on your brother or your mate rings & says he’s in Tesco “do you want anything?” – or someone stops to give the old person a lift home.  In the back seat with the windows open of course.

What is happening, however we interpret it, is that the forces of good & evil wrestle with our states of mind, & we have a choice about how we respond to it.  We may have little or sometimes no control over those forces, but we can choose how to respond.

How often do we stop to look around us & think about where we actually are, & what to do about it?

Jesus had advice about this.  He said that tomorrow has enough troubles of its own, so stay in the present & do the best you can.  We can all wear masks, give way at junctions, walk don’t ride on the pavement.  We can all be good to our neighbours.  If you add reading the bible & praying to God to that, then so much the better, in my humble opinion.

Is there any point in prayer?  Does God answer?  It often seems like He doesn’t.  Maybe because we ask for the wrong thing, or maybe He has other plans.  There isn’t much we can do about that either, except trust that He knows what He’s doing..  We can be like Job & ask Him why (I guess those of us in faith have all done that), or we can be like the shepherds on the hillside, or the disciples by the shore – believe & just do it (& I guess we’ve all done that as well).  Does God answer prayer? 

We prayed at St John’s all year for a resolution to the seemingly irreconcilable Brexit deadlock.  Then a few days before Christmas it was broken.  Of course it’s not ideal for anyone, but it was broken, it’s a start. 

We prayed all year for a way out of covid.  And in scarcely believable time, a whole rash of vaccines all appeared at once, where a few short weeks before it looked hopeless.  While we despair over the new variations, imagine the situation if we didn’t have the vaccines.

God has answered these prayers; there is light in the tunnel.  So let’s look around at where we are today, consider what we can do with today, keep paddling (& praying) & leave the rest to God.