Heading for the Promised Land?
Margaret Whitaker wonders whether we will return to all our frantic busy-ness when we emerge from lockdown.
When life was “normal” I used to keep a notebook. On the right-hand side of each page was written the significant dates for the next three or four months, and on the left were the current week’s activities, day-by-day, Monday to Sunday, with day and date to make sure I was ‘on the ball’.
This notebook ended abruptly on week beginning March 16, 2020. There was no more to do, no longer a need to note it down.
As I was pondering this after I found the notebook a few days ago, I found myself thinking about the Exodus and those who had also found their day-to-day life ending abruptly and a journey beginning. They had a vague picture of a “Promised Land” but no idea where it was or what it might look like.
If I had thought about it at the time, that is what the future looked like to me back in March 2020. We had been cast adrift on a journey from life as it was, to…………… what? This time has been different for each of us, we all have a story to tell, and some stories have been filled with sadness and some have been filled with purpose and exhaustion. But perhaps for some others there may be common threads which could help us re-ground and find our forward direction.
BC – Before Covid, many of us were incredibly busy. Enslaved to our need to ‘do’, our need for what we did to matter, to make a difference, to be important, if not to others, at least to us. We may have felt measured or assessed by what we did, what was achieved, what was efficient and/or effective. That, in itself, is not wrong, but it can take over and consequently any time for quiet reflection and perspective can be squeezed out and we can find ourselves on a treadmill of achieving and doing.
Then along comes Moses, in the guise of lockdown, i.e., time and space to consider how we might live differently. We find ourselves travelling to a new place, and maybe not a place of our choice. We are released, maybe unwillingly, from our busy-ness with all the comfort of knowing who we are and where we are going that busy-ness brings – and we are cast into a hurried pilgrimage with the Rameses of our internal driven-ness in hot pursuit.
We are required to stop; and maybe even turn and face the demons that are chasing us and start to give them names, thus calling them out. Ego, perhaps, neediness, possibly, a lack of self-identity beyond the accomplishment of some task, maybe; all the accompaniments of pride. Busy-ness is a good hiding-place for these demons – we are too busy to recognise them.
The Red Sea of transition lies before us. The traversing of this soggy and rock-ridden track will bring us to our knees, have us stuck in sucking mud and feel as if it is endless. Soggy is a good word for this time as we may shed some tears as we struggle to travel forward, but turning back is not an option. Some kind of Promised Land lies ahead, and we have a desire to see it. Moses leads in front; the time and space that he represents is still with us and we don’t know when it will end.
But more lies ahead. The lockdown eases. We have a time of increased freedom of movement and a Golden Calf of busy-ness returns. We travel, perhaps, we see friends and family, possibly, life feels more ‘normal’. We have lost Moses for the moment – we are free to follow our own desires, so we return to the busy-ness that has protected us from ourselves, - from God? – perhaps for many years.
Then Moses returns and we enter a new time of lockdown, more severe than before. Is it in this wilderness that the transformation that God seeks in each us might be effected? We may be here for some time; let us not wander around aimlessly; Moses remains with us, feeding us with space and time to think, watering us with the opportunity to find refreshment in whatever way God presents to us.
Perhaps in this time we might hear a new whisper from God, a new call on us, a different way of living, perhaps a way of being more, rather than doing more. The Joshua who will lead us into the new land, the new ‘normal’, might be the new call that God could place on our hearts that will fit the time ahead when needs will be different.
There have been, and will still be, broken hearts that need the healing touch of God, broken lives that need to hear of the comfort of the God who provides. There are, and will be, many hurting people. There will be a need to minister as Mother Theresa of Calcutta did, by those who see Jesus in the sad, damaged, and forlorn.
There will still be walls to march round till they crumble, but the way forward may now have a quieter and more measured feel. Needs have changed and the way ahead might look firmer, less frantic, more assured.
The image of the Red Sea is by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay.com.
Revd Margaret Whitaker is a retired Anglican priest living in Ludham in East Norfolk.
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