The New Normal
Back in March when Boris Johnson announced that the UK was going into lockdown, the song all the high-school kids were singing as I picked our kids up that day was: “We love you Boris, we do! We love you Boris, we do!”
Of course it was exciting for them – but over the 14 weeks that have followed (the longest break from full-time eduction they’re ever likely to get until they leave school!) things have changed dramatically. The realisation that everything, and not just school, was off the books (pardon the pun!) meant that life in lock-down wasn’t quite the holiday they had anticipated it might be.
The National Home schooling experiment began with a vengeance and it took many of us quite a while to adjust not just to the change in the rhythm, but also a big change in our relationship. There was P.E. with Joe Wicks for those with the energy to attack the morning (although, I must admit to having successfully sidestepped that particular torture!), and suddenly apps like Microsoft Teams and Seesaw become the new norm. With a lot of people trying to learn to work from home at the same time, it’s not just the wi-fi bandwidth that get stretched to it’s absolute limits from time to time!
The children of key-workers had places offered to them in schools, but in much smaller classroom sizes, and in a very different capacity.
For others this period comes at a higher cost. I feel deeply for those in exam years (a good friend of mine who is a teacher said that many of his pupils were in tears and felt like the two years work of preparation had been ripped from under them), and of course those uni and college are likewise facing unexpected consequences of different types of assessments or even delayed results.
The New New Normal
But now of course, we’re entering a new phrase.
As this term draws to a close, school kids are invited to return to school – but not school as any of us know it. There will be nothing old school about the old place.
One school in China actually got the children to make “social distancing hats” to help them maintain the necessary distance from each other!
Most schools in Wales are now welcoming back pupils for one session a week to control classroom sizes and allow for effective social distancing to be maintained. That means that friendship groups (one of the big things that many of our children and young people have been missing) will necessarily be disrupted. The smaller groups of children will likely be in different classrooms with different teachers. It can’t be helped – but it won’t be easy.
Therefore, the focus of the time they do have together, as far as I understand it, will be on settling them into a learning routine again – and on own emotional health and well-being.
The Good Old Ways
If all we have done during this coronavirus crisis is to pray, then we will have done all that we can. (Ken Benjamin – Baptist Together President)
The best thing we can all do for our children and young people is to pray for them, especially right now in this new period of transition.
Prayer can sometimes feel like ‘homework’ – a necessary task we see the need for, but don’t always anticipate with the same degree of excitement as an extended summer holiday! And if we haven’t prayed for a while, it can sometimes feel more like being summoned to the headmaster’s office rather than wrapped up in the arms of our Good Father. So how can we keep our prayers for our children and young people fresh and faith-filled?
1. Engaging the Imagination
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13.3)
I am not for a second suggesting that school and prison are similar places (though I’m sure some might disagree!) – but I love the principle here of praying for someone “as if it was” us in their situation. Imaging and understanding the struggles of others, allows to pray in a more educated and personal way.
2. Tell them you are praying for them
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1.6)
One of the unexpected benefits of knowing that others are praying for us, is that we come to recognise that God is at work in our lives in ways we weren’t expecting Him to. As someone famously said: “A lot of ‘co-incidences’ happen to happen when I’ve been praying!” Knowing that others are praying opens our eyes to these moments of strength, provision, wisdom, protection and guidance in real time rather than retrospect.
Ask them if there’s anything they’d like you to pray about, and then apply your faith to the work of prayer!
3. Expect God to show up
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6.26)
If you had to list God’s favourite hobbies, I bet bird feeding wouldn’t be one of them(!), but this was Jesus’ vision of His Father, who shows loving and detailed care to His creation. All too often we divorce our faith from our working lives and live as if God is only interested in showing up on Sundays, but that’s simply not the case!
Jesus often asked people after He prayed for them how they were (Mark 8:23) – you wouldn’t ask that question if weren’t expecting some sort of result! Sometimes it’s only when we stop and check that we discover the healing has happened or the answer has arrived. Ask!
4. Keep at it!
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. (Col 4.2-3)
What does it mean to be devoted to prayer – maintaining our watchfulness and thankfulness? It’s easy to get discouraged, but in the mysterious gift of prayer we’re invited into a relationship of understanding God’s ways in a far deeper and more personal way. Just. Keep. Going. I promise you it will be worth it.
Take the risk of asking what to pray for, actually pray for those things with understanding and faith, expect God to be at work – and if things don’t seem to change at all for a long time, stick at it! Remember that before a new seedling pushes out of the ground, there was been months of hidden growth beneath the surface – keep on planting many seeds of faith and the harvest is sure to be abundant!