I have always loved rollercoasters and thrill-seeker rides, whilst Matt goes a nasty shade of green even standing holding the coats, but one day, when our daughters were small we went for a family fun day out to Thorpe Park. Matt went for the first ride with our eldest, the first ride she’d ever been on, she wasn’t big enough for any of the monstrous rollercoasters, but there were plenty of family friendly rides too and she was begging to go on the Banana Boat ride with him. All was well, everyone strapped in and safety checked, the boat began to gently swing, steadily gaining momentum until the swing was full on, with huge highs and very low lows. I stood on the tarmac below, grinning as I imagined the fun they were having whilst I was left holding the baby (slightly resentful that I was missing out), oblivious to the fact that in reality poor Matt was having to try and reassure a terrified child, who was convinced that she was about to die with every plunge. It wasn’t fun for her at all, she was traumatised! Fortunately, the Fairytale boat ride saved the day, and of course a picnic followed by ice cream.
I’m not going to say anything about how this lockdown experience has been like a rollercoaster … as that would be teeth-clenchingly cliched and this isn’t ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ … BUT, I have noticed how my mood and feelings have swung dramatically, almost moment by moment, huge highs and very low lows, and even more so over the last couple of weeks.There have been days where I’ve felt peaceful, in control, I’ve baked, I’ve shopped online, I’ve had daily FaceTime chats with our family, I’ve written my essays and got them in on time, I’ve done full days of college on Zoom and it’s all been fine. Ok, not fine, but I’ve had days of happiness and peace. Pat-on-the-back, Sandra! But in amongst the (slightly strained) positivity, building all the time has been a sense of deepening grief. Normal grief for the loss of my father-in-law, yes, which has been huge and felt like a sad fog to wade through since he’s been gone, but also for so many other personal losses right now. I‘m sure that you must have been feeling it too. Like a big swing all the way up, finding moments to rejoice in, things to laugh at, only to plummet really fast and out of control straight back down again to rock bottom. I spent much of the day yesterday shedding tears, reflecting over how many people I know have lost loved ones in this period, (not all directly related to Covid-19). I was also reflecting over my own behaviours, thoughts and feelings over the last week, where I’ve been overwhelmed with sadness at not seeing my grandson in all this time, knowing that there are many grandparents all over the world feeling the same pain, not seeing my daughters … again a familiar sense of loss for so many right now.
I’ve experienced huge overwhelming anger too in this last week, which Im not proud of, when I’ve seen others choosing to bend or break the ‘rules’ of lockdown. I’ve reacted hotly and then later felt shame for feeling and expressing that anger as I’ve recognised that what were once considered normal, good, wholesome human things to be doing on a daily basis have become wrong, even unlawful and that’s really difficult to process. I’ve experienced confusion, as to how I am supposed to think or feel when faced with peculiar ethical dilemmas in these locked-down circumstances.
It is all so upside down for us human beings, no wonder it all feels so confusing, we weren’t designed by God to cope with (enforced) isolation, we were built for family, relationship and community, created in His image, who IS relationship Himself (the relationship of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit). FaceTime and Zoom are just like a temporary painkiller, a sticking plaster over a wound and nowhere near an adequate replacement for being in the same space as our loved ones, hugging them and enjoying that intimacy of human interaction. We are feeling loss because we have to deny ourselves that basic human need and mentally and emotionally, the strain is definitely showing.
I’m determined to never take ‘family’ get togethers for granted again – Sunday lunches laughing together, or barbecues in the garden on a sunny evening with close friends. Such deeply precious moments, that we miss so much when they can’t happen. But we can’t lose sight of why we are all doing this, we are showing love and consideration for all families and friends everywhere – protecting them, joining together in shielding the vulnerable. Distancing ourselves has become an expression of love towards others, it’s weird, it feels alien, it’s all upside down, but it’s what we have to do. When we feel low and are struggling, we can choose instead of despairing to pray for more strength, from Him who has plenty to give.
Back to that Banana boat ride, our daughter felt overwhelmed with fear, unsafe, but the truth was that she was safe, she was anchored in and her father was right beside her reassuring her all the way. But she was focused on her panic, and his voice didn’t break through – it was a new experience that she didn’t understand. For most of us, this is all a new experience that we don’t understand. The boat is well and truly rocked and we might be feeling fearful and uncertain, but, our Heavenly Father is right beside us, reassuring us. If you’re struggling to hear his voice today, then here is his voice, straight from the pages of the Bible, hover over the link or look up in your own bible.
Deuteronomy 31:6 | Proverbs 3:5 | Isaiah 41:10 | Psalm 55:22
And a prayer you might find helpful to pray:
Lord, help us during this difficult and confusing time and please bring about an end to it soon. Help us to call on You daily, knowing You always hear us. Help us to lean on You instead of leaning on just our own understanding. Give us the strength we need, moment by moment, and remind us always that You are aware of all that touches us. Your eye is even on the one sparrow that falls and we are worth more to you than sparrows. Thank you Lord, for not leaving us comfortless, thank you that you promise to always be beside us always even if we feel that you are far away. Thank You for Your great love. We pray this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.