What a time of terrible contrasts and contradictions – more time to be in, but less time to reflect, physically fewer places to go, but more tiredness, people in need of company, but so few ways to meaningfully interact.
It is a time of constant adaption, questions, review, and more adaptation every time the rules are changed or more consequences are worked out. Yes there are amazing opportunities to use different forms of media and digital communication, but zoom fatigue is all too real.
In this time of lockdown there has been so much loss, people unwell, unable to visit loved ones over prolonged periods, loss of employment, routine, identity and of relatives and friends who have passed away. Funerals have been particularly sore, with limited numbers of people able to attend, and so many restrictions to endure. Some of my most searing memories have been of a funeral with a woman in a single household, breaking her heart over her loss, but no one able to get near her to give her a hug. Or the man dying in the hospice, and only being able to speak to him on the phone, knowing he was too weak to respond and with me only able to listen to his laboured breathing and not being able to hold his hand.
Something I am so aware of is that these situations are made even more challenging by the fact staff at the crematorium and undertakers are working extra-long hours and having their own recent bereavements compartmentalised into their lives so they can continue to function. The usual support systems of meeting family and friends, or going away for a few days, are not available, and this makes things so much worse.
It feels like such a fragile time with so many people putting their own significant life events on hold to serve others. In ministry, the danger is that we do the same and that this will catch up with us. Making space to acknowledge our own woundedness, our own pain, and to start to let God bring healing, is such a complex process. When the next day is unknown, never mind the next week, it is hard to find a safe space to do this, but it seems crucial to try. I really need to live“ the unforced rhythms of grace” and it feel like we all need to take time off over the summer to rest and decompress, before the autumn re-engaging begins.
I think of Psalm 56 where the psalmist says of God “ you have collected all my tears in your bottle” – it feels like we need to give ourselves space to lament in the summer months, before we face all there is ahead.