So kids are back at school and yet at home; and parents are at work and yet at home. Parents are now expected to supervise and support their children as they learn online, even while doing their own work – which in itself has become more challenging due to all the changes. Any plans we might have had for juggling work and kids through the school holidays are now being extended indefinitely by the COVID-19 shutdown; while for others, work has suddenly dried up. And so, one way or another, stress levels are heading through the roof.
There are thousands of articles online suggesting how you can organise your kids, organise your life, and work from home; I won’t repeat them here. Instead, as your pastor, I will offer a reminder, and that is this: While we can’t control events around us, we can still choose what we turn to; we can still choose where we direct our time, energy and focus. When we’re not actively supervising children or working, some of us will turn to alcohol, bingewatching, binge eating, online shopping and endless hours on Facebook to distract ourselves from the stress and grief of a world turned upside down.
Yet to put it bluntly: If those things become our focus, we will shrivel up. Our capacity to remain calm when someone yet again interrupts a Zoom call; our ability to find humour in it, or seek a bigger story around it; our creativity in the face of tricky family dynamics and logistical problems; our joy in small things; our sense of peace: all these things will slowly ebb away.
This is a natural consequence when we rely on human things to get us through. The Psalmist describes it well: ‘Our God is in heaven, doing whatever he wants to do. Their gods are metal and wood, handmade in a basement shop. Carved mouths that can’t talk, painted eyes that can’t see, tin ears that can’t hear, molded noses that can’t smell, hands that can’t grasp, feet that can’t walk or run, throats that never utter a sound. Those who make them have become just like them, have become just like the gods they trust.’ (Ps. 115:3-8; MSG). This idea – that we become like the things we trust – runs through the Scriptures.
This is why others of us are trying so hard to keep focussed on the Living God, and allowing this God to shape our days and selves. We each have to find our own rhythm, but one element is key: that every day, once, twice, or several times, we focus on the Word. Perhaps we begin the day by reading and reflecting on the Bible; perhaps we pause at midday to reflect again and pray; perhaps we mumble some old and useful prayers at night. Perhaps in the evening we read spiritual writings, or theology, or a good novel or memoir: not necessary Christian, but that which nevertheless enriches our faith. We do these things trusting that these words, this god, will sustain us, even in this time of exile in the home.
On Sunday, we will hear about some other disciples in lockdown: they, too, were anxious and afraid. Yet like the child who bursts into a Zoom call, Jesus moved through closed doors and offered joy and peace. So let us put time and energy into reading and meditating on the Word every day, let us rely on the Risen Christ to interrupt our anxiety with his infectious joy, and may his peace flow through our hearts and homes this week.
PS – This was written despite seventeen interruptions and a chatty google classroom happening within earshot. It’s 9.37am and I am breathing very deeply … and remembering this and this … and wondering why my grade sixer has only one brief learning task to complete for the day … sigh.
Emailed to Sanctuary, 15 April 2020 © Alison Sampson, 2020. Image credit: Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.
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