As we know, this week marks the one-year anniversary of lockdown, and a seemingly troubled year. That is 12 months – 365 days of apparent difficulty and gloom that has been experienced not just by a few, but that has literally spanned the globe.
I don’t want to focus on the difficulties, on the hardships, or play down the losses that many have encountered, but a new year, or an anniversary is also often a time to reflect on what has gone, to consider it, to ponder it, but then to look ahead towards what is yet to come.
For myself, as I look back over the past 12 months, a year ago last week not only did the first lockdown begin, but my eldest daughter Frankie got married to Sam, in what was the last ‘uncontrolled’ wedding before lockdown commenced. The same week, one of my dearest friends was also lost due to Covid, in fact she went into hospital on Frankie and Sam’s wedding day, and so could not attend the wedding. It was the anniversary of her passing on Saturday.
Back to today, this past week has therefore marked Frankie and Sam’s first anniversary. They’ve had the difficulty, and yet the beauty of being thrown in the deep end together, spending much more time together than would ordinarily have been the case, but also doing their first year of marriage without the physical presence and support of family and friends. But here they are, and this past week has also been the week that they moved into their first ‘house’ together. They’ve had a first year that will be a story they can certainly tell future generations about. They have had to grow, and face challenges, that has included isolation, loneliness and also suffering with Covid themselves. But having had conversation with them, they have grown tremendously, both individually, together, and in their faith. For they readily acknowledge that whilst they could not see family and friends, God was always with them.
So, their journey got me thinking about my own. And I can honestly say that over the past twelve months, whilst I have faced difficulties like so many others, I feel blessed to have had time to grow and relax into a new way of life. At the start of lockdown, I felt God reminding me of the verse in Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness, and streams in the wasteland”.
And there are genuinely many things that I have treasured from the past twelve months, that could not, or likely would not have occurred if the lockdown had not happened. Look at the way the air cleared during the first lockdown, and the bird song was so much louder than before! Such beauty! And whilst there are without doubt things that I would have changed if I could have – mainly around the pain of loss, worry, and loneliness that I know many of us have had to face, putting all of that aside I am going to say something profound and potentially controversial.
For me personally, all of the difficulties aside – in terms of personal growth and having time to develop and see more clearly the things in life that are the most important, having let go over the course of the past year things that I discovered were not as important as I had thought – I can honestly say that I would not change one of these things!
Gym membership has become walking with a good friend in nature, loss of Matt’s job caused us to thin down what was unnecessary quite drastically – but it actually feels good to be living lighter and freer! And at no point have we have gone without. New doors have opened, and whilst the covid battle is still being fought, I know that I am blessed with something that can never be taken away – my faith and relationship with the Lord!
Moving away from the self – this year has seen the church being recognised for the importance that it has in the community. In some ways it has had the invisibility cloak taken off it, and the truth has been revealed about just how much it does to reach out and support where it is needed – not just to church members, but to the wider community, in just the way that Jesus would. The church, during lockdown, has been allowed to grow! And in many ways shine, as it has been able to display our own mantra – of ‘making sense of life together, sharing the love of Jesus.’ We have seen donations coming in to help support the more needy from people throughout our community – many of these people are not at all connected to SCBC – and their giving has been financial as well as practical food, and clothing support, and I have been inundated with offers to work within our food bank in particular. And so, the past year, has been a time that has allowed areas of growth for many, but has also highlighted quite clearly God’s presence and provision in the midst of it all, for the bible says that God is Love – and that is just what many people have been expressing, in one way or another to others.
Can I suggest that we each ask God to show us the areas of personal growth in our own lives, especially those things that would not, or could not have occurred at the same rate, or in the same way if lockdown had not occurred? And let us give thanks to God for turning our bad experiences into so much good. As the UCB word for today said recently, pain is an inevitable part of life and growth. So let us consider our growth – for what we go through, we grow through.
Let’s end this time in prayer:
Lord, thank you for always being with us, and thank you for all that you do. Forgive us for the times when we forget that, and fail to notice that you are not just with us, but are going through life quite literally as we are – feeling, experiencing, witnessing and grieving just as we do. Father, we want to thank you for never leaving our sides, for always being there, and I pray that you will remind each of us, when we are blind to it, with that gentle whisper into our hearts, of your amazing love. We know that you only want the best for us, and so I ask that you help us each to grow in the very way that you want us to, so that we can be the very best versions of ourselves, for your good. Help us to do your work and show us who you would have us each help, or what you would have each of us do today, tomorrow, and in the forthcoming weeks. Guide us, lead us and draw us each closer to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.