So, here we are – blood, sweat and tiers… the good news of the national program of rolling out not just one but two types of vaccination balanced by the bad news of yet another lockdown.
At a recent meeting I heard one leader say they felt like they were leading a type of “hockey-cokey-church” right in, “in, out, in, out” and being shaken all about… and I must admit to sharing that feeling.
On Monday night, as leaders together, we agonized over the dilemma of whether to reopen our live-stream services to a live congregation or not. Having weighed up the advice of government (and subsequent advice from Baptists Together), and consulted with other churches and denominations as to their response we decided it was wiser to continue with online services only for the foreseeable future.
And, of course, it’s not just churches that are affected. For some of us, that delicate “work-life balance” is now entirely off kilter, for others of us our hopes of what 2021 might feel like are already shattered. Our lives are undoubted affected in countless ways by each new period of lockdown:
- Being unable to visit friends and family
- Work patterns altering drastically often adding new levels of responsibility and pressure
- Huge disruption for those in school and higher education
- Our health care being more difficult to access or put on hold for the time being
- Our normal ways of unwinding and relaxing being cut off from us
And we would have to be robots if that did not begin to affect our emotional well being in some way too. It would be natural in this situation to expect moments of:
- Acute anxiety and worry
- Intense frustration or out bursts of anger
- Boredom and lethargy
- Despondency or even depression
An excellent book I read at the start of last year (Leading on Empty) started with the sentence:
The problem is not that we forget that we’re Christian, the problem is that we forget that we’re human.
Right throughout the scriptures we see faithful believers struggling with all these emotions and more – our Christian faith does not make us emotionally immune, – far from it. But we all too often forget that we’re human.
I remember, years ago, being struck by Paul’s words:
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
I remember the sudden realisation that the emotion of anger itself is not a sin… but that the emotional state of being angry (despite the feeling of strength that it brings) makes us vulnerable to sinful actions. It’s what we do with our anger that can be sinful. Paul encourages us not brood in long periods anger – (even suggesting here that every sunset should be an anger reset reminder!) – because it can provide opportunity to the evil one to drive his footholds into our lives.
And the same is true of any of the emotions you may be experiencing right now – in and or themselves, emotions are not sinful or represent a failure of your faith. Don’t forget – we’re all human after all. It’s what we do with those emotions that counts. If you read through the Psalms, you’ll see there isn’t a single emotional state into which God cannot be invited, and that He cannot transform.
A recent email introduced me to a concept by the author Robert Greene. He talks about the difference between “dead time” vs. “alive time”. It cited many examples of people who, though forced into their own types of “lockdowns” (long hospital stays, prison sentences, exiles) rather than viewing it as “dead time” chose instead to use that time for something healthy, something positive, something transformative. “Alive time.”
In many ways, the apostle Paul was one of the greatest ever advocates of “alive time”… using periods of time in prison (or under house arrest) to:
- Witness to the palace guard
- Share his faith with fellow prisoners
- Write to churches and keep them focused on Jesus
- Write to church leaders and keep them encouraged and emboldened
- Experience the presence of God in prayer and worship
In the words of one prisoner to another in the rather brilliant “Shawshank Redemption”:
I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.
Dead time or alive time – it comes down to our choice, our response.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Most newer versions translate that phrase “redeeming the time” as “making the most of every opportunity”, because that’s what Paul is getting at – but I prefer the older translations here. The word: “redeeming” meaning to “buy back”, to “ransom”, or to “rescue”… the same word Paul uses of how Jesus “redeems” us at the cross!
None of us wanted to be here – but how might we choose to “redeem” the time, transforming it in “alive time”; time that is useful, meaningful, purposeful – time used is discovering and doing “what the Lord’s will is” (Eph 5.17)?
This, Paul says, is part of living “not as fools, but as wise…” – and just one way in which our faith can help us to stay calm and keep growing during a crisis.
A whole bunch of people have downloaded an app that helps them to read the whole Bible in a year. A great use of this time! Our youth leader, Tim Barker, is the catalyst behind that – so for more get in touch with him!
Another way you might want to invest time this year, is by signing up to come along to our online “Bible Course” – it’s an overview of the whole story of the scriptures in just eight weeks, a really excellent course put together by Andrew Ollerton and the Bible Society that can’t recommend highly enough. Particularly good for new (or new-ish!) Christians, but a great refresher for anyone who wants a bigger picture of the Bible’s scope! For more on that, see here.
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