I braved our local Sainsbury's on Wednesday for the first time since we'd come out of isolation... it was strange to see the reality that others had been talking about for a week. Empty shelves, shoppers dancing around each other, trying to maintain 2 metres distance, any cough from anywhere in the shop drawing suspicious looks, and an eerie quiet. No one stopping to chat. Everyone just trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.
It felt so sad. And wrong. And broken. What is this world we find ourselves in? This new normal that would have been utterly inconceivable when the midnight clock welcomed in the year 2020? Was that really only a few weeks ago?
And then last night happened... and at 8pm doors and windows opened... people leaned out and smiled and waved at each other, and as far as I could hear... the echo of clapping along street after street after street. Surrounded on all sides by a wave of applause. Neighbours checking in with each other across garden fences and through semi-opened windows. Our boys were tucked up in bed, but I don't think our girls will ever forget it. The sense of unity and community. Of being in this together. Of feeling both incredibly vulnerable, and yet part of something bigger.
My prayers are earnest and regular. Ricocheting off an emotional pendulum that swings between hope and horror. One moment it all seeming so removed and grand-scale and big-picture, as I'm distracted by my children giggling in the garden sunshine, or getting some school work done... and the next the reality steps in. My friends are working in intensive care wards, people I know are getting ill. The terminology is changing. No longer is every casualty followed by that cold-hearted "underlying medical condition" (as though that were meant to assure us? Who in this world does not hold someone dear who hasn't an underlying medical condition?!)
In moments where these thoughts are left to linger, my heart feels the weight and the shadows loom.
Two of my favourite words in all of Scripture...
On my knees I look up. And realise that though the storm crashes and rages around us, I am not drowned... my security in all of this is not standing (thank God) on my own emotional state... that I am not thrown by the waves that threaten to overwhelm as they wash around us.
Not because I'm strong. Not because I have a naive, optimistic idea that if I "believe we'll be OK then we will be"... that is hope in nothing. There is no assurance anywhere that my family will not be as impacted by this as any other. We are all leveled here. No one is without risk.
No... my hope isn't founded on any unfounded conviction that "we'll get through this unscathed", or even on scientific probability (much as I am grateful to Science for all that has been possible to know and predict through this pandemic)... as believers in Jesus, we stand on a rock. A rock that is steadfast and unshakeable. Certain and immovable. God is in this. He holds it all in his hands. He is at work, though we cannot yet see how... He reigns, in the valleys as much as in the heights. He promises all things are working together for our good. So somehow, somehow this is for our good... somehow he is moving behind the scenes in glorious, beautiful ways that we can't even begin to fathom.
All through this, my littlest has been reminding me daily of truths I need to hear. His little voice singing as he goes about his daily activities... how wonderful that a two-year-old can minister to his Mama's heart...
Don't build you house on the sandy land
Don't build it too near the shore
Well it might look kind of nice,
but you'll have to build it twice
Yes you'll have to build your house once more
You better build your house upon a rock
On a good foundation, on a solid spot
Oh the storms may come and go
But the peace of God you will know.
Praying the Lord's peace over all of you reading this today - wherever your hearts find themselves. Broken, fearful, hopeful or mercifully distracted.
Let's place our feet firmly on the rock of the Saviour.