So this post is intended to be the promised follow-up to my previous instalment Needles and Haystacks (#1); an attempt to make sense of my messy mind and the glimmers of sense I think I might have found there.
However, a few more days, weeks or months- who knows, is it still 2020?!– have passed in between and so I can barely remember what those might have been! In fact, I am really starting to regret doing away with the Diary of a Lockdown series, to be honest. Largely because doing so contributed to the lie we have all been labouring under, (you know the one where Boris said we should go out and enjoy ourselves and this should all be done by Christmas?!) And secondly, because I think having a space to reflect on the highs and lows of this tumultuous year was good for my mental health!
So, there we go. Let’s bring it back!
But first… let’s get back on track.
Upon returning from the holiday-slash-family-reunion, I threw myself into all of the planned resolutions with gusto. There was running, fasting, healthy eating, Bible reading, prayer, boundaries, a phone curfew and even walking to school- on time and in control. The things that I had put in place to improve my internal health were working; they were having the desired effect; I was feeling great… and so naturally, I began to let them slide. “Of course I can read the news/ scroll for hours/ eat three slices of cake/ watch dark TV shows before bed…. I’m in a really good place now!“
My icy fall from grace culminated the week that the new “rule of 6” was introduced: i.e. no socialising in groups bigger than 6, INCLUDING small children. Seems fair, until you realise that this basically means complete social lockdown for families of five or more- especially when you live hours away from your immediate relatives. Ideally, to see our parents, AKA the kids’ grandparents, either we or they need to stay overnight. Which was suddenly against the law… again. Only this time, it wasn’t against the law for everyone. My parents could still see my sister and her children, other families of four had no problem seeing theirs; heck even in Wales and Scotland, children didn’t count towards that number… but here, in England, for the sake of our third child- a two year old– we were, in all probability, looking at another six months or so without grandparents.
Which hit hard.
I mean, I don’t mind following hard rules when they are just and fair… but the perceived injustice of the new rules, the way they had no regard for larger families, was really difficult to accept.
And I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too. Poor little white woman… if THIS is your first real experience of injustice then you have lived one very sheltered life! Get over yourself and look- just LOOK at what is going on out there!
And I did. I looked. And I saw disgusting levels of racism- even down to the offensive memes shared online by members of my own extended family. I saw angry people declaring that “All Lives Matter!” in a world where they so clearly and openly don’t. I saw wildfires and floods and hurricanes; rising sea levels in poorer provinces while the rich carry on for profit. I saw a dead whale washed up on a beach in Spain, with 29 Kilograms of plastic in its gut.
I saw the mixed messages from the government and the favouritism towards the elite. I saw the discarded face masks and plastic gloves; the crowds and the rule breaks and the Everyman out for himself. I saw that if this is how the world deals with a global pandemic, there is no hope – none at all- for the bigger issues listed above.
Peter says, “always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have…” But in that moment, honestly, I had none.
“Have you forgotten who is in control?” Asked one.
“Remember Jesus!” Said another.
But somehow… that wasn’t it.
As I mentioned in my previous post, something has been amiss; something has been lost in translation, somewhere along the line. And there, in the darkness, I found myself closer to discovering what that is.
I drove to the North East in this state. Making the most of the final three days before the family ban was upon us. I cried. I sang along to cheesy pop songs. I moped. I dwelled. I eventually began to reflect.
A friend had visited recently and laid out his reasons for never flying again. I said I couldn’t do that; adventure and travel is in my blood. He said, “yes but it’s a justice issue. 95% of flights are taken by 15% of the population: the rich are polluting the air of the poor, raising the climate, causing ecological disaster. Our luxuries are killing people who can’t afford them. Once you know that, you can’t really choose to ignore it.”
But I want to.
And thus I was faced with a very harsh reality: that almost everything about my life- who I am, how I live, what I do- is in some way contributing to the inherent systems of injustice and oppression on this planet. And no amount of cloth wipes and plastic-free teabags are going to solve that! The cars we drive, the banks we use, the food we eat, the clothes we wear… our dreams of travelling and childrearing… even the good stuff. Even the cheaper, plastic-clad food I buy to cook in bulk for the poorer families in our community- in a bid to do some good in the world- is bad. Everything has a catch; everything has an angle from which someone suffers. The idea of getting anything completely right just feels overwhelmingly impossible!
And that’s just the present and the future.
Suddenly, I began to look at the past. If travelling is killing the planet, and the world is overpopulated… then most of the things that bring me the most joy, most of my most treasured memories… most of my most intimate experiences of God and prayer… are tinged with sin.
Now that’s a very, very dark place to be in.
I long to go back. I long to go back to a simpler time when sin was basically alcohol, sex and gossip! And if you just said “yes”, loved Jesus and avoided those things you were going to make it OK!
But now… now, there I was, sat in my car, faced with the overwhelming, complex enormity of human sin. And I think it’s the first time I’ve really, really looked it in the face. I mean, I’ve been confronted by my own personal sin many a time. Occasionally, following some hideous event, I have been shocked by the rare but obvious evil capable of another individual or group. But I have never, to my knowledge, sat back and caught a glimpse of what God has seen, from the beginning of creation until now. I have never before looked upon the complete hopelessness of the human race; the greed, the injustice, the destruction. And our ignorant resistance to change.
I’ve never been so disgusted.
“You can’t save us!” I heard myself saying aloud. “You can’t love us. How could you?! Why would You send US a Saviour?!”
And don’t read that wrong. That wasn’t gratitude. That wasn’t awe.
That was genuine disbelief.
And so the penny drops.
This fear. This anxiety I continue to carry around. This constant feeling of not being quite right… the missing piece.
Somewhere along the line I think, while continuing to believe that God is real and good and that Jesus was who He said He was and that the Holy Spirit dwells among us… somewhere along the line I simply stopped believing that I am saved.
Because I don’t deserve it.
Because we don’t deserve it.
Because how far-fetched is it really to believe that the Creator of all things, who can see what we are doing to all of creation – not least to each other- would still love us to the point of death and far beyond? How can we really believe that He would sacrifice so much – His Son- His self in flesh- to let us live forever with Him?
I mean, if that is true; if even an ounce of that is true… then that is flippin’ good news right?! That isn’t something to go about idly and half-heartedly believing. That isn’t something to keep quiet about. That isn’t something to contain within a box or a building or an icon or a necklace or a repetitive pop song. That is something real and living and life-changing and worthy of our undivided attention, right?
Then… how is it not?
Something has been lost in translation. And if it’s true… it is far too important to ignore. I need to go back and read it all again. And so that is what I have started to do. And… well… maybe it’s best to blog again too!
For I realised that I cannot save the world.
The very idea overwhelmed me to despair.
But I can take a step at a time
Towards the One who already has,
And offer a window to the hope I find there.
Thanks for reading.