DURING THE WAR; AFTER THE WAR
This is an existential crisis and it hurts each of us more than we like to admit. But honest ministry that connects with others begins from this place.
It’s a strange kind of war when the enemy is invisible, but the metaphor has mileage. People experience a pandemic differently, as with wartime. Some are actively on the front line caring for ill, sometimes critically unwell people and risking their own health in the process. Others, removed from this, are helping to co-ordinate responses to the enemy in virtual space or keeping up with their day jobs. Still more are trying to figure out how to use unexpected time which has been freed up.
Christian people will find themselves in all three categories and slip from one to another at different times.
Here are three things for us to watch out for:
1. We probably feel the need to fill up all the time we have with doing as much ministry as possible. Even when we’ve reached the end of what we can do each day, we find ourselves searching for more. Whatever we think of that instinct, it controls us very effectively. But this is the moment to loosen its grip.
2.We have certain duties we must attend to, but somehow a vague sense of responsibility for everything nags away at us. After all, if creation is to be healed, that’s a pretty big remit. So we carry on, driven by misplaced guilt rather than inspired by divine grace. We deny this is happening, of course.
3. We keep on filling any void, because it’s easier than allowing our emotions off the leash. This is an existential crisis and it hurts each of us more than we like to admit. But honest ministry that connects with others begins from this place.
Here are three ways to be creative:
1. Take time to listen to those we are closest to. It’s surprising how much we miss because we are so familiar with the voice of those we share our homes with. They need us more than ever, now. And kindness is what they crave.
2. Pray. I mean, really pray. A Microsoft study shows how human attention spans are now shorter than goldfishes. Seriously. A new economy based on grabbing our attention means we have little of it left when we close our eyes. The present crisis creates an opening. And there’s a case for focussing our intercessions on one cohort of people in need right now and sticking with them.
3. Read something that someone has spent some time preparing. We flit from one feed to the next, snacking on bits of information here and there. Stuff that’s taken only seconds or minutes to create. True enrichment is found in the classics we always said we’d read, but never get round to. If not now, when?
Here are three things to prepare for when we emerge again:
1. Lots of things are going to change in our world when the coronavirus is brought under control. When it looks like we’re getting to that point, some prayerful reflection on how it will change, how it changes us, and how we marry the two is worth making. Entrepreneurs quickly spot new needs. So should the spiritually creative.
2. We’re going to feel the need to hit the ground running after all this time cooped up at home. To do all the things that couldn’t be done. But the rhythms we develop in the meantime may be what we need more of, to ensure we are as kind and imaginative – as smart – as we can be on return. There are echoes of people returning from sabbatical in this. Except a large number of us may be returning at the same time. Can we figure it out together?
3. We know many people will be bereaved. The rest of us will have experienced a different kind of loss in these few months. Bereavements make us reappraise our lives – our purpose and direction. Some of us make life-changing decisions. Others soon return to existing ways of living. This pandemic is a collective loss. Are we capable of making changes together that make this world healthier, shaped more surely in the character of Jesus Christ?
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