Last month I wrote an article about resilience, quoting extensively Chris Dunkerley and I wonder now how important that message was, given where we find ourselves in the world today. The key highlights of resilience were: Manage priorities—Sabbath rest—Take exercise—Process Your Feeling– Don’t ruminate—Seek stillness—Enjoy company.
Perhaps the last one, to enjoy company, is the one thing we will all start to miss during these times of ‘self-isolation’. After all, we are relational creatures. We find meaning in relationships with others. We find purpose, value and love in relationship with one another and for a time that will be a difficult thing to lose as we are called to keep distant from one another.
It will be hard for people when funerals are taken without a ‘crowd’ to bade farewell to the dead, and will leave those mourning with a sense that things aren’t quite right. As I write this it has just been announced schools will close and most likely not return until after the summer break—questions around no exams and our childrens future will ring in folks heads (mine included as my daughter was preparing for her highers) – and so relationships may become strained in family homes as parents juggle potential or actual illness; childcare and work, or maybe worse— loss of work.
All of this created by a wee virus. What an impact such a small organism is having on the entire world, and for me as the minister of GMC this week has been one of making decisions, only for them to change due to new advice a few hours later. We are all being buffeted by the metaphorical storm that is Coronavirus, and a need for resilience is essential for the world, for countries, for leadership across governments and business, for church leaders and for individuals. Yet I suspect, for many such resilience may be difficult.
So how can we help one another?
Using the headings from last months blog, I would like to offer the following thoughts:
Manage priorities: look after your health and wellbeing, follow government advice and do not pout yourself OR OTHERS at risk by your actions. But also do not prioritise yourself above others. A mark of Christian faith is service – Jesus was the ultimate servant and is a model for looking after oneself while caring for others. In Matthew 6.19-33 Jesus addresses priorities – putting God first. Read the passage and find comfort in it.
Sabbath rest: we may have much time for rest from our normal routines, but what will we fill our time with? Will it be watching TV, binging on box-sets, spending hours gaming? Or perhaps some much needed work around the house or garden (if your lucky enough to have one). We all need rest to recuperate, but it is the quality of rest that matters. Find time and space to spend with God: in reading Scripture; in prayer; in contemplation; in praising God and listening to Christian music (UCB or Premier Praise are two food radio stations). However you find rest, make Jesus central (consider the words of Matthew 12.1-8)
Take exercise: physical exercise and well as exercise of the mind and spirit are important for wholeness and wellbeing. Find ways to exercise your body that you can do where you are. But also exercise the mind (as I said above—don’t just sit in front of the TV). Through spending time with God, our faith can be strengthened in this life, whatever the future may hold. Consider the words of St. Paul in 1Timothy 4.8
Process Your Feelings: Our feelings will go up and down, our moods from resignation to anxiety amongst many other emotions. And at times they may be too much for us. It is important to talk and we can do that by picking up the phone or by face to face contact through on-line apps. Keep in touch with those who are alone—with neighbours, friends and family. But remember it is not only important to talk of your feelings, but also listen to others. We have one mouth and two ears, so maybe listen more than you speak. And don’t let your emotions control you but rather share the burden with one another—and of course, give it to God. Read and consider Romans 12
Don’t ruminate: There may be many things we may find ourselves endlessly pondering over the coming months, but do not get stuck upon worrying, on being on the wrong path. Seek God, knowing that the path He calls us to be on is the right one, and therefore we must leave our own path of choice for our own good. Read Luke 9.57-62
Seek stillness: Isaiah says in 30.15—This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. Amongst the chaos unfurling at the moment, we need to find stillness, which of course is linked to our Sabbath rest. Pray Psalm 46 and rest upon the words of verse 10.
Enjoy company: And so back to my first thought. There is difficulty around enjoying company when we are being told to isolate from work; from school; from friend; neighbours and even family members. Stay in touch with one another by phone and other technologies and enjoy those moments. The perfect formula for JOY is ‘Jesus-Others-You’. In John 13.34 Jesus says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. “
We are being forced to live differently and perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing. Certainly our planet is enjoying a breather from the pollution of air, sea and land travel (trains and cars). How we engage with one another (positively; generously; lovingly with compassion) during these times will set the pattern for our future. Let’s not go into selfish isolation caring only for ourselves. Let us love God and our neighbour as ourselves.
Your servant in Christ Pastor Mike