11 May 2020
So week 7 is over and the exhaustion is starting to kick in.
I’m someone who likes to find the positive. Lockdown began for us with a flurry of activity. So many projects and home improvements to do. I looked forward to so much memory making, deep learning and home baking, all in a clean home filled with healthy snacks and positive people! Plus more time in God’s word together, and more ways to support our community – delivering meals to the needy, donating to foodbank and raising money for charities hard hit at this time. We were going to smash this…
It wasn’t long before I could hear myself crying with the teacher in Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the (home school) Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What do people get for ”.. learning fractions, past perfect tenses, adverbial phrases and poems about bluebells. The actual verse says “all the toil”, but I think you get my point.
Perhaps my expectations were too high and I’m not sure who that imaginary family was! We have done some lovely things – dug a pebble pool, had more BBQ’s, painted more pictures, camped in the garden. We’ve occasionally read the Bible, got dressed for live stream church, delivered a meal or two to the elderly and I threw some stuff in the foodbank bin when shopping. But we’ve also done more grumping, arguing, winding each other up, being exhausted and feeling sad.
Looking online, you’d think there was so much fun to be had staying at home that we should barely miss the outside world at all. But actually, this whole thing stinks! It’s OK to not be OK. Or, as Ecclesiastes says, “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
There is a time to miss people, to feel sad, to struggle that you can’t go out to fun places, to think online church is stilted, to be disappointed that the holiday you were really looking forward to is cancelled. Yes, we understand that some people’s sadness is greater - losing loved ones, facing major financial hardship and uncertainty. But we can still acknowledge the things that make us and our kids sad. God, who is an ‘us’, made us like him - to love others in a community of believers. When we can’t be with them, it hurts. This is “the time to refrain from embracing”. Perhaps, in the future, we will appreciate “the time to embrace” all the more.
There is at time to grieve. Sickness and death are awful. Jesus wept at Lazarus' funeral, not because he didn’t have resurrection hope, but because death and sorrow are sin’s ugly scar ripped across humanity. We may feel this grief personally, or just in a shocked national and global way as the death toll increases. The Bible is honest: “there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”. We all live somewhere between these extremes and right now we really feel it. Family life tends to vary wildly between these opposites on an hour by hour basis!
There is a time to rejoice. For some of us there is some relief in removing the pressure to be out of the door at a certain time. Our hamster wheel of activities has slowed. God sets a pattern of work, rest, seasons, years. This current pattern is just as much under his control: “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
There is a time to laugh. If you’d told me a year ago that our family could survive all working from home together, only going to the local park and woods for short trips, I would have said you were mad! If you’d told me a year ago that my church would engage with technology enough to watch live-streamed services and have online home groups, I’d have told you you didn’t know us very well. If you’d told me that Zoom quizzes would be a thing and Facebook Live could be a source of encouragement and Bible teaching, I’d have laughed. I’d have been wrong!
So I hope I am learning to move from unrealistic positivity, through the pressure and cries of “meaningless” to somewhere near a right perspective. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes ends by telling us to remember our creator in the days of our youth – good advice for kids and parents everywhere. “Here is the conclusion – fear God and keep his commands, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
The reality of lockdown has stripped away much of the noise and meaningless activity of life to make us come to terms with the facts that life is fragile, death is a daily reality, we are sinful and we really need Jesus.
The good news is that the incarnated, crucified, buried, risen, ascended Jesus is exactly where we need him to be - on the throne of heaven, interceding for us! He knows what we need because he understands what we feel and there is nowhere we can go, not even death, where he does not go with us and offer us hope. My personal sense of perspective on lockdown may be only just emerging – but my eternal one is rock solid. When this is over the pyjama-wearing part of me will be sad and want more time with my kids to do the things I imagined. The home-schooling-never-off-duty part of me will be dancing. But right now I’m taking a moment to say ‘Thank you Lord for bringing us this far. Please lead us through what is next. Help me model your love and my dependence on you to my kids. Amen.’