I feel like I should be there by now. There in the place that is the new normal, there in the lifestyle that this world demands right now, there contentedly in the solitude and freedom of my home and workplace, there where God is leading us to. But, you know something, I’m not! I’m still figuring it out, I’m scared of who the new normal may not contain, I’m railing against the lack of people contact and privations of this season, I’m scared for those I know who are NHS and Care workers, I’m out-of-sorts and grumpy. And I feel daft in that mix of emotions. I feel like I should be able to be all gung-ho and positive and stay up-beat and be resting in God’s peace, like he’s some sort of internal heating system! I feel like I’m not doing enough to help others, but have neither the time or the capacity to do more than I am already doing. I feel out-of-sorts, emotional and confused. And I feel like I shouldn’t feel confused over what is actually not at all confusing but is wholly straight-forward – there’s a highly contagious and dangerous virus around and we need to stay in as much as possible to not get it or spread it. That’s factual and straight-forward so why do I feel confused and out-of-sorts? Does anyone else feel like this? Am I alone or in company?
I suspect I’m in company, and good company. In the midst of the fears and confusions, there are also a number of articles I have read that describe the psychological effects of responding to a social trauma and crisis. We, so I’m told, oscillate between heroism and despair, we are brave one minute and fearful the next, we are up-beat in this moment and sad in the next. We grieve the old routines and ways, we try to embrace the new but it tires us (because it’s new), we miss people we know and love (even though we see them online), we are constantly butting up agains the shock and sadness of the latest reports of death. Our normal people of help, comfort, identity and accountability are missing, or only virtual and online or at the end of the phone. I give huge and grateful thanks for the technology that allows me to talk to my family in Preston, or Cumbria, in Devon or London, and even in New Zealand, but it’s really not the same as seeing them physically, as having a hug, being together, sharing food and time and activity. These things, these people and activities, are part of forming and keeping our identity, and without them I feel a bit lost.
So, given the reality of death, loss, isolation and distance, is it ok to feel out-of-sorts and wondering who and how I am? I think it is. I suspect to feel otherwise would be to live in avoidance of the reality of the situation. Every so often we may indulge in escapism, but to succumb totally to an escapist life would be to deny the season God has allowed us to live in. This all brings me back to the words of Esther, “for such a time as this”. Esther could have simply drifted into the world of the harem, she could have simply resigned herself to a non-Jewish lifestyle, she could have chosen to be just another concubine. I’m sure she sometimes felt hopeless and helpless, and so her uncle reminded her that she was there for just such a time, as a voice, an influence, a faithful woman of God. And that encouragement led to action and resolution. She didn’t give in and seek escape or avoidance activity. She didn’t deny the life she was given, she lived it and, in the midst of the struggle and faithlessness and demeaning tasks, she stayed present and real. She didn’t escape into her mind or drink or depression, she remained clear about her role and choices and influence. She stood firm, as a woman of God, and as one with influence and a voice before the King, and as one of the persecuted nation of Jews.
For such a time as this I and you are the ones who must allow the reality and the struggle to be experienced so that we can hold it before God, for such a time as this we are the praying people for this world and this community, in this season now we must hold tight to our faith that God is good, Jesus died for us and the Holy Spirit is present in and through us. I mustn’t give in or escape or avoid my self or the situation, and you mustn’t either. Let’s be real, and in the midst of that reality be the voice before the King, be the influence in the world, and be the faithful prayer warriors who uphold all humankind to God for healing, provision and peace. We are present and alive for such a time as this, to be God’s people in this crisis and tragedy – keep praying and being, doing and feeling, as the people Jesus called to be his for this world.