It has been a long winter.
I have lived in the UK for 35 years now so I am used to this time of year but Covid lockdowns have added their unique bleakness to this winter’s cold, short days.
And so crossing the threshold into February feels good. This is the month that wild daffodils start to appear all along the roads near my house and the sun once again greets my morning coffee. Today I am typing in an upstairs bedroom, looking out on the trees that will have blooms in weeks. I can already imagine what that first whiff of Spring will smell like and how joyous the lifting of restrictions will be when they eventually come.
But I can also imagine how easy it will be to forget the lessons of this difficult time as soon as life is easier.
So, here are my personal lockdown take aways that I am determined to guard as hard-won treasures of this unprecedented time.
I want to always remember that Sunday church gatherings are a wonderful and precious privilege. After nearly a year of online church, I know now more than ever that church is not an interruption to my weekend or a spiritual box to tick. It is not solely a feel-good top up either. Church gatherings are my opportunity to turn spiritual gratefulness into love and service for God and others. They are my weekly reset, my chance to identify as a child of God and a member of His family above all other identities I may have. Corporate worship is God’s beautiful idea and it is designed for my flourishing and I hope I will always treat it as a joyful, non-negotiable necessity and a gift.
And I don’t want to ever forget that walking and praying is the simple answer to most of what ails me. In my pre-lockdown days, I would walk and pray when someone I loved had a serious need. It was an occasional event when I really wanted to show God how serious I was about interceding. But, with not much else to do and cabin fever so often nibbling at my soul, walking has now become an almost daily habit. And it has been a revelation. I have discovered that there aren’t many situations, worries, fears, conundrums or crisis that an hour’s walk and sincere dialogue with God won’t answer. This simple response to life’s twists and turns, its disappointments and challenges. has never once failed to give me fresh perspective, peace and direction when I needed it. Like the manna that God’s people collected in the desert, each day has it’s own spiritual provision; if I make time to gather it up I can feed myself. I hope I never forget that regular time with God to pray and to listen is the source of spiritual strength I so often look for in other places.
And I don’t want to forget that you can too much of a good thing. I can have too much busyness in my life but I can also have too much time to myself. The constant tension between these two extremes is the price of living life with purpose. I need regular refuelling, time to think and pray, to reflect and refresh. I also need time to spend fresh resources on Kingdom work. Filling up to pour out is the normal Christian life; anything else is either empty or stagnant. I must fight both the weariness that a lack of sabbath produces as well as the selfishness and introspection that comes from a lack of service. Either error falls far short of my calling in Christ. It is vital to take time to be a women with a heart that is good ground, but the purpose of fertile soil is for planting crops; I am created for good works. I hope I will never forget that following God well should always cause me to both value sitting at Jesus’ feet but also walking in His steps to make a difference in the world.
This winter, like every winter before, will end. The spring bulbs will win. The sun will strengthen and the grass will grow. Someday soon restrictions will finally begin to ease and life will warm up and get moving again.
And when that happens, Lord, help me not to forget.