That was a year ago and over the last 12 months a lot has happened. Many people have unfortunately lost their lives to a virus we didn’t know existed 18 months ago. Let’s be honest it’s been difficult for everyone.
There hasn’t been a year in my life where it hasn’t at points been difficult for various reasons, but actually over the last 12 months we have had this difficult situation which has brought us all challenges we have had to face.
Whether it is loosing a loved one, not knowing what the future may hold, the rules consistently changes over time, trying to understand your own emotions, whilst supporting the others around you.
Sometimes it just feels like our lives are so messy. Waking up one day and wanting to take the world head on, waking up another and not wanting to get out of bed. One day you can see people you love, the next you can’t. Planning for things that might not happen. Working your socks off for something you don’t know is going to happen. This has been the story of the last 12 months and its messy. But one thing that I know is in the mess there is ALWAYS beauty.
Have you ever been in a food fight. I have. I was at a camp as a teenager, me and my friends sat down for our pudding it was jelly and squirty cream. We were the only ones eating, no one around and I don’t know who started it (although it wasn’t me!). I remember a handful of squirty cream being pied into my friends face, who responded by getting his jelly out of his dish and throwing it. Before I know, it was chaos, we were all messy and had cream all over our faces, there were bits of jelly everywhere. But there was a moment, where time slowed down, my friend Liam threw a bit of jelly at me. I saw the jelly leave his hand and I could see it coming to hit me in my face. I turn my head away but it wasn’t quick enough, the jelly hits my cheek but because its jelly it doesn’t break instantly, instead it wraps around my face and slowly breaks. I burst out laughing, he didn’t throw it that hard, I could just see it coming and the feeling was so weird. Then we all burst out laughing. We were covered, it was messy but yet it’s a moment I remember for that time of laughing rather than the hour it took us to clean ourselves, the tent we were in and to pick up the jelly off the floor. In the literal mess there was this beautiful moment I remember so well.
Do you just remember the mess or can you see the beauty?
When I look back at this year, I will remember clapping for the NHS, the legacy of Captain Tom Moore, the country pulled together rather than being pulled apart. I will think about the lives lost and the families behind them, it’s impossible not to but I will also think about the care given and the lives saved just because we all did our part. I will think about how millions have had their jab with many more to go and the work that has gone into something so impressive. I will think about the zoom calls with my young people where we have laughed, I will also remember the times they have been patient with me. There have been ups and downs and everything in between in the last year.
I wonder what you will think about? What are the moments? What are the highlight? What are the lowlight?
We can often look at a situation and just see the mess, we can just see the devastation. But there is always something more going on.
In Romans 8 there is a famous verse (28) which reads like this “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
I think we read something like this in the bible and go one of two ways neither which I believe to be really helpful. One way is to deny it. You might say ‘God isn’t going to make this better’ or ‘God hasn’t stopped people from getting ill’ or even ‘God hasn’t stopped my exams from being cancelled.’ Whatever the statement might be for you its usually an expression of anger, and right now we have a lot we can be angry about. I think you are allowed to be angry but that doesn’t mean the verse isn’t correct. It just doesn’t feel like that right now. The second way we respond to this is by sitting back and saying God is just going to make this better I don’t need to do anything. I might pray occasionally but God has it. That is shifting responsibility and will not work.
What I think this verse is really saying, is that when we come through the other side of it you will be able to see the beauty in all of the mess.
One of the privileges of my job is listening to people. I hear where amazing individuals have been through so much, and in my heart my initial response is often, if I could take that away I would, but I realise that those moments are the same ones that have led them to be sat in front of me. Those people might not realise it yet but they are so incredible, I love working with them, and these are the moments that in their lives that have hurt but can be turned into something beautiful. I believe that is the process God is involved in.
For churches it has been messy, doors which have open every week for hundreds of years were shut. We moved online to cries of “you are on mute” or “I don’t know how this thing work”. We open our church doors but are then told to stay apart socially distant in the place where God calls us to be together. But there has been some beautiful things happening.
1 in 4 people nationally have engaged with some form of corporate worship online at least once a month. Prayer has increased during this time as well. With more people praying for the first time ever and more people praying more often. Spirituality in the under 30 age bracket is higher than any other generation right now. It seems that we have closed the church doors and become more accessible. I don’t know how to describe that in any other way but God working with us turning our basic efforts into something beautiful.
This last year has been messy yet God continues works with us. One year on we are now in the next phase of it all. Very slowly moving from trying to understand what has been happening, to now living with it. We need to continue to put on our masks, stay socially distant, get the vaccine and are careful not to continue the spread but God is with us. As we slowly go back to things that make us who we are, to seeing family, to doing whatever we love, to just carrying on with our normal messy lives. Its important to know that God has been with us this last year, turning mess into beauty. That has been something which has happened and will continue to happen not just in the last year but for the rest of time.