“…a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
In the last 20 months or so, I have turned from being a ‘news junkie’ to someone that now checks in no more than a couple of times a day. It’s a decision that I took for the sake of my own well-being and thank goodness I did!
I don’t believe there has ever been a time in our history when death and misery has been focussed on so much. As a society living in a multimedia world, news is available to us even on-the-go, 24/7, every minute of the day.
So are we really surprised in the expedential growth of mental health problems in the UK today. Even, the other week when it was reported we had reached 150,000 Covid-related deaths in the UK since the pandemic began, bereavement charities talked about the ‘Tsunami’ of grief they are all experiencing.
It’s the poor families, friends and colleagues who suffered from the death of a loved one that my heart continues to ache for. Denied the chance to comfort and be comforted, the right to the closure of a funeral of their choosing and time and again forced into a world of isolation. And if that was not bad enough, news coverage at the time and ever since in all news broadcasting, continues to refer to their loved one as a mere statistic!
That said, there is one time I am happy for the broadcasters to remind me of deaths that have happened in the previous 12 months, that is at the end of News Review programmes when we are so respectfully reminded of the lifetimes and contributions made by the famous who have died.
The chances are most of those people will have had tributes broadcast when their death was first announced and, at the same time, there seems to be no end of people who want to send condolences and share memories of notable times in their lives when they knew the bereaved.
I am not saying this is wrong. I do always wonder at those times though, if the bereaved had ever been aware of those feelings when they were alive! And, at the same time, my heart aches for those bereaved through Covid who see the same broadcasts, with no warning, and old wounds are re-opened reminding them of how different it was for them and their beloved.
A Call to Action
Everyone has been affected the last 20 months – some more than others – and in so many ways. I firmly believe EVERYONE has a role to play helping those suffering from the consequences of COVID, for as long as it takes.
For Christians, we personally know the strength and hope we can always access from our God, our Comforter. Philippians 4: 4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.”
God encourages us to take action in verse 9: “whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
I recall many heart-warming actions and the effect they had on me while I was in isolation post cancer treatment, right at the start of the first lockdown.
Waves from passers-by always brought a smile to my face especially from a very young boy who daily climbed the garden wall with a cheeky grin and waved as he disembarked, much to his parents’ shame and my amusement! It was months before I was able to find out their names and have a conversation. People took detours on their daily walks for distanced conversations, unexpected gifts of home baking, cooked meals, flowers were regularly left on the doorstep, even a bottle of gin, and numerous offers of “we’re just going shopping. Anything you need?’
For any of that to happen, people had to be thinking of me – what a warm feeling that gives to any receiver ….and the giver! When we ‘return to normal’ many of those bereaved will continue in a life of isolation – we can commit to changing that in our new found freedom!
While browsing on the BBC news site this week, I was cheered by a lovely article about understudies. While theatres and productions had made a huge effort to get back up and running, by this Christmas just past, many cast members were isolating or unwell and extensive use was made of understudies, some of whom hadn’t even been designated as such and had to learn parts overnight; productions changed constantly as people returned, isolated, and recovered. It reminded me again of the resilience and courage of so many people working in performing arts over the last couple of years.
Artists have survived, and so have we; in general, that is – there has been a dreadful toll in lives and livelihoods everywhere. The effects of Covid will be felt for a long time to come and we can be very thankful for the healing grace of God in our lives.
Apart from the obvious – family and friends – one thing we have missed very much during the pandemic has been cultural events. In the first lockdown especially, we were stripped down to “essentials”: only those deemed to be in essential jobs kept working, and this did bring some long overdue respect for people in many jobs which we had taken for granted.
It did however also raise questions about what “essential” actually means, and I suspect we found that many other less obvious things are also essential and that life without them is rather grey and drab. Church in person is the clearest example of this. My family also greatly missed the cinema, concerts and our regular evening with our picnic at the outdoor Shakespeare play – we felt dreadfully for that wonderfully talented, hardworking troupe, and were so glad to be able to see them on the road again last summer.
A more recent highlight for us was stumbling on the televised New Year’s Day concert from Vienna. People had jumped through considerable hoops to be present and were still socially distanced and wearing masks, but the venue was elegant, the floral decorations exquisite and the music sparkled, and we were again reminded how much we need beauty in our lives. The arts are so important.
We are created with the need to live beyond the “essentials” because God has also given us minds, souls and spirits. He is the Creator God and first Artist, and He has given us our creativity and our appreciation of culture and beauty.
Francis Schaeffer said, “The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” (Art and the Bible). Literature, art, music and drama take us beyond ourselves, help us to understand the world and also to contribute to it, as well as having inherent value in themselves. Through engaging with the arts we can express our faith but also encourage others in their thinking, since art is “a hunger for transcendence and a search for meaning” (Brianna McClean, 2018, The Gospel Coalition Australia.)
We can also love our neighbours through creativity. One of the brightest lights in the last two rather dark winters has, for us, been being involved in our local Advent Window Walk and so being privileged to be able to express our faith (and our love of The Nutcracker) as well as appreciate what the season means to the people around us.
For we can always create, whatever the circumstances – many people found solace through gardening and baking during the first lockdown. For one of my daughters, her jewellery making has been a real saving grace through this extraordinary time. The world is not as it should be, but everywhere are remnants of the beauty God originally created. We are created in His image, we all have sensitivity and creativity and we can all live lives which express the wonder and glory of God.