A layman’s progress

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

June 2020

The season of Spring has been unusually warm & dry, & we are slipping almost unnoticed into Summer.  We look forward to changing seasons, usually into the warm rather than the cold phases – they give us something to look forward to, they give us order & consistency in our lives.  Every year they roll into each other & we rely on it to happen.  This year’s seasons will live permanently in all of our memories, as we give up so many things which we look forward to, & which give us pleasure & diversion.  We’ve given up restaurants, pubs, holidays, travel, social contact, family gatherings, & of course our Christian worship.  The 40 days of Lent pale in comparison; they have a known start & finish, & we choose what to keep & what to give away, whereas we are now being ordered or advised what to retain or rescind, & with no known end in sight.

Our lives have been emptied of so many things, things that give quality of life, value & worth to our being.  I wonder what has been rushing in to fill the void?  Since nature doesn’t like a vacuum, something else is occupying that space.  TV, social media & newspapers (remember them?)  historically get our attention with bad news stories; natural disaster, fallen celebrities, corrupt politicians etc etc, you can write your own list I’m sure.  Then they generally show us a picture of a cat rescued from a tree or something similar, so to finish on a good note.  Now we are hearing the frightening reality, & also the speculation about the negative vibes pouring into society due to lockdown – domestic abuse, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, financial catastrophe.  We are warned of the impending consequences which may take years to unfold.  These issues are very real & serious; it will take a concerted effort over many years to push back against the dark implications of this prolonged lockdown.  Where is the cat, I wonder?

Just as we can choose whether to comply with safety measures, we can choose our response to the lockdown & its ultimate lifting.  For reasons not fully disclosed to us, it is important to God that we have free will; that we choose to follow Him rather than be compelled to do so.  We will never make perfect decisions, but we can select whether to turn towards the good, towards God, or away from Him & fall into darkness.  This is a habit of life which is a lifetime of choice, a continual determination towards being better in response to adversity.

There is no denying the negative potential of our current restrictions – but there is no denying the positive reactions either – witness the key workers silently walking into danger every day to care for the needy & to keep society working.  So if we fill up the vacant space with goodness, love, kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control, joy, peace & faithfulness, then I’m quite sure that everybody we meet would find a positive in our company and some help in warding off the negative.  This is no silver bullet for frustration & anger – people will be angry around you, & you will get angry.  Be kind to yourself because you’re going to be challenged, especially if someone you love has been impacted by this deadly disease.  You’re human & God understands that you will both be impacted by, & also feel, bad stuff.

We can all expect to have sleepless nights, to worry about ourselves, the future, & about our loved ones.  Those are real & human fears.  It’s not weak or selfish to feel that way, & it’s critical that if feeling like that we find someone to reach out to.  That can be by telephone, text, Facebook, email – & for those of us Christians, by prayer to God Almighty.  You can’t pray too much, because repression of emotion is seriously unhealthy.  But when we feel better, then we should give back in thanks for the help that we receive – think of something we’ve been meaning to do but haven’t got around to, like telling someone you love them, or picking up the phone to someone you’ve been thinking about, or sending a letter or an e-mail just to say “hello, how are you?”  In that way we resist the tendency towards the dark side, we push back against the negative, & we do our small bit for the good, for God, by choosing to fill up the empty spaces with positive & holy intentions.  Each good deed is like a single link in a golden chain – eventually it stretches all the way out to God, & even though in time to come we may forget a lot of how we forged each little link, be assured that God will remember every one.