Hi everyone! Apologies for the radio silence from me on the blog for the last two weeks… I’ve just had two weeks away from the old laptop – the first week was a Reading Week (read two great books I can’t wait to tell you more about at some point) and then was off downs to the in-laws in Pembrokeshire for Half Term. I’m massively grateful to Andy Gibbs, Richard Hodges and Hayley Young for their ministry over the last two weekends – we’ve been really blessed with some great teaching!
I’ve been reading recently about a further milestone here in Wales – that by a week today (14th of June) every adult in Wales will have been offered their first vaccine, and that by September all those should have received their second jab too! Not only is that way ahead of schedule, but also hugely encouraging in our ongoing battle against coronavirus.
For my second vaccine, I had the very odd experience of going down to what used to be ToysRUs… but now, of course, stripped of any shelves of toys and filled instead with cubicles of nurses.
I don’t know how you feel about the vaccines, or how you’re feeling if you have had yours – but it seems that a lot of people are starting to feel a little more confident once they’ve had them.
Gradually (and cautiously) things are just beginning to open up more and more. We’re still a way off being back to normal – but at least it feels like we’re being to back to something…
So, how does it feel for you?
A ‘Social Hangover’
We might have been looking forward it for a long time, we may have been planning it carefully – but a lot of people are reporting that actually socializing with people again turns out to be… really overwhelming actually. Having had large periods of isolation over the past 15 months, experiencing actual human interaction has left some people completely exhausted. On top of that, they’ve been really confused as to why because it was something they were desperately looking forward – (and, in some cases) even counting down the days – to!
If you’re one of those people, take some comfort in knowing that you are most certainly not alone.
Dr Julie Smith, a clinical psychologist, was talking about this to the BBC’s Newsbeat recently:
What you do every day becomes your comfort zone. So when you do something that is new and different, your brain is set up to give you a little spike in stress.
DR. JULIE SMITH
She went on to explain that it’s just your brain’s way of saying “we haven’t done this in a while, stay alert and be careful.”
So as much as we might have been looking forward to seeing others – for many of us, socializing is a step outside of this new “comfort zone” that we have created for ourselves during lockdown. This may leave some of us feeling almost like “different people” – but there is hope, Dr. Smith goes onto explain that this coming out of lockdown-lethargy need not be permanent:
Not exercising or socializing as much as you might normally will have an impact on flattening your mood and your effort… Action creates energy. So once we start to do more, we will feel the energy that goes with that. But, bringing yourself to that point can be quite difficult.
DR. JULIE SMITH
To be honest – more during the second lockdown than the first – I can really identify with the “flattening” of my mood and energy. Some days, I just woke up feeling really flat.
I don’t know if you have been the same at all, but there are times when I’ve got so sick of the sound of my own sighing!
“The Truth will set you free…”
As a few of you know, a few years ago I had some counselling to work through a particularly difficult season. I remember in the first session the counsellor asking me why I was there and how I was feeling. After about 10-15 minutes of her patiently listening to me describing to her what I wasn’t feeling she eventually interrupted my rambling and said: “So what is it that you are actually feeling??”
Sometimes our biggest problem is denial. We simply refuse to listen to our own bodies, to our friends and family, to God. We busy ourselves with other things rather than just stop and admit – we’re not ok. We’re feeling low. We need help.
There’s a proverb that says:
Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
I guess at times, we are not a very good friend to ourselves and try all kinds of coping strategies to “kiss it better” rather than face the truth. But, as sweet as our denial tastes it can be a poisonous to our freedom: it is the Truth that sets us free. The truth may hurt at times but at least it’s a medicine that leads to healing rather than a feel-good deception that leads to greater dis-ease and ultimately, death.
And being honest with ourselves is just the start – learning to be honest with others is crucial, so that we can be supported by, and supportive of, those who God has put around us.
Factoring in Fatigue…
Jesus once told a simple parable about being prepared:
Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish…
Now this parable is about much more than just this – but knowing that there’s such a thing as a “Social Hangover” could easily become an excuse for inaction – or we can use that knowledge to preempt it’s effect on us. We can plan ahead and count the cost; to try and realistically take account for the toll it can takes on us.
In our rushing, bulls in a china shop, we break our own lives.
In our eagerness to “get back to it” we need to learn the vital life-skill of pacing… of not trying to do everything at once, but giving ourselves and others time.
The Rest of Your Life…
And secondly, when we can rest, we can rest well.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness even for His own Name’s sake.
Throughout lockdown I have reflected a lot on those words: “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” That picture of “enforced rest” has become a helpful one for me because the temptation to just “get on with it” is huge. But God wants to shepherd our lives, and He knows when we need to stop and find those places in Him of quiet refreshing, of spiritual refilling, where our very souls can be restored by Him.
When I say that the Lord is my shepherd I’m saying that I trust Him to provide for my life – “I shall not want”. We’re so often driven by our wants – but the invitation here is to rest within His provision for us, and to allow Him to guide our lives. Sometimes that means listening when He says stop as well as when He says go.
Hangover or Hand-over?
…casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].
1 PETER 5.7 (AMPLIFIED VERSION)
And finally, the Bible invites us to hand over all of our anxieties, worries and concerns, onto to the God who cares for us. That is the real secret to recovering from the lockdown hangover – to allow our struggles to lead us towards God and discover more of His deepest affection and watchful care of the details of our lives.
Pray until your cares are fully emptied out into His waiting hands. Hand it over. He loves you so much, and has been waiting to carry it for you.
So let it go and turn it over to
The one who chose to give his life for you
Leave it to me
I’ll lead you home
MICHAEL W. SMITH (I’ll lead you home)
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