So much time… so little achieved.

I’m a bit annoyed with people who are loudly proclaiming all the projects they’ve achieved during lockdown. I’ve achieved very little. Partly this is because I have been sick for most of that time (non-Covid related, although I’m sure I could create yet another conspiracy theory that did connect the two).

I’m also annoyed with people who flout the lockdown with selfish and self-centred activity. The response I often hear to these people is, “It certainly brings out the best and worst in people.”

I don’t agree. Times of crisis and stress bring out the reality of a person’s character and values in a way that “life as usual” doesn’t. We see who we really are.

That’s the real value of our current crisis. It provides us with an opportunity to examine how we are feeling and responding to small and large events each day, and to wonder what that reveals about us and why.

Yesterday Tim Costello (Victorian of the Year, National Treasure, ex CEO World Vision Australia, public speaker and activist), writing for the Australian Centre for Public Christianity (CPX) said, (and I quote Tim almost in full because I find what he says so insightful).

“ I realise that my life of work and activity has flowed out of my extroversion. I rank at 97.5% on that spectrum. Needless to say, I have years of throwing myself into activity; relishing meeting people, speaking to crowds, and endlessly using my mobile phone. I have always thrived on running to help, and being present at disasters to bring aid.

This time of isolation has been much more testing for extroverts – of that I am sure. My wife is quite different – at home with her own company and she can cope with not seeing people.

But COVID-19 has left me feeling pretty lost. I am not ‘wanted’ anywhere to rescue. My ‘work’ is not essential, so I have been told to stay at home. My father answered the call to duty and fought in New Guinea in World War II. Here I am in 2020 with the world in meltdown and the demand on me is to just sit on my couch. And as a 65-year-old to accept that my fate is in others’ hands. This is quite humbling.

But as this time unfolds, I sense the experience, unlike any other, will help me work out what ultimately matters. It’s forcing a personal reordering. I think it is also forcing societal change. Can we build back better rather than just snap back? Does our interdependence, biologically through a virus, lead to really embracing a society where we are all in this together?”

This morning a friend sent me a txt saying she was, “…discovering sobering things about myself in lockdown – apparently I’m not the prayer warrior and Bible scholar I thought I would be when I had more time in my day.”

I told her that I had barely read my bible in lockdown since I had no services and sermons to prepare. (My farewell-less resignation kicked in along with lockdown.) My reality.

Not the best and worst in people, but the reality of a person’s life and values. We’ve noticed after three weeks in our six-adult, three-generational bubble that our sense of humour, language, and acceptable behaviours have become quite different to previously (some would say they have slipped to an all-time low, but who’s to say it isn’t actually an all-time high of shared connection, acceptance and delight in each others company?)

The great opportunity of the lockdown is time to better understand who I am, we are, with the usual props removed; to become aware of what I am feeling and to reflect on why. Once I take the time to understand that, I have the choice to do something about it, or to ignore it. Most will ignore it. I don’t want to do that. I want to better understand who I am and who God is; to get to know both better. I want to become more of the flourishing human being I was created to be.

Tim and I might be coming at it from different ends of the personality spectrum, but we share that as a common goal and desire.

I replied to Tim, “I’m finding being in lockdown with six family members across three generations – as an introvert – quite hard too. There is nowhere for me to get real space while in my home. I have to leave and walk the streets. As I’ve been unwell for three weeks now (stomach bug finally diagnosed today) I haven’t much felt like going walking.

What we share in common Tim is that as a church pastor (the latter by vocation and calling, the former by employment!) I am also used to responding to needs, and to being needed. Since my resignation came into effect during lockdown I have not only lost connection with my fabulous community, I wasn’t able to have my farewell service. Double whammy.

Then I did an emotional and physical belly flop into the abyss. The landing was much, much harder than I envisaged. The abyss much more tangible.

I’ve discovered God is in the abyss, but a bit harder to find than usual. I don’t see as clearly, or perhaps the depth of my vision is related to the depth of my reality. I can only see what is real to me. I’ve also discovered that the best activity in the abyss is … nothing. Doing nothing. Just being with God. Learning who I am, not what I can do. I think God is quite happy hanging out in the abyss (on the couch, watching tv, reading a book, drinking tea, snoozing, cursing the Church) because that’s where I am and God quite likes being with me! I’d go so far as to say that God LOVES being with me. Jesus showed me that, in the events we reflected on at Easter.

So I am learning to just be. Be in relationship. Not to count my achievements. I don’t want that to stop when daylight arrives and the abyss dissolves into…. “

Fortunately God won’t be driven away by the light when/if it does come. (Following Jesus is no guarantee it will. As the poster says, “It’s always darkest just before it goes pitch black”. Resurrection never implies a return to what was previously so. God is still there.) Night and day are the same to God. So we will be able to continue to be together. And I will continue to have opportunities to learn about our relationship and about who I am and who I am becoming, and to find ways to build that into the way I live post-lockdown.

That will be quite an achievement.

Mark Pierson

Mark Pierson

I've been curating worship for several decades (and coined the term in relation to worship.) I am passionate about the local community of faith and imagining what its worship needs to look/feel/sound/taste like in order to sustain people in their following of Christ in the world.

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