The following letter from the Revd Canon Sally Lodge, Rector, is also in our Keeping Us in Touch Extra (Magazine) published on 6 May 2020 but is reproduced here for those that don't wish to download the magazine.
Most of us like to have some structure in our lives, some sense of knowing what happens next. We divide time into years and break years up into months and weeks and days. We plan for next year, next month, next week. Holidays, weddings, special celebrations are all joyfully put into our diaries and written on the kitchen calendar. As are meals with friends, family gatherings, dentist and hair appointments, sporting events, school trips. Some of us like to have year planners on our walls, others like to use online diaries and other tools to manage work and leisure commitments. We like to know where our life is going, and we like to have things to look forward to. Studies show that one of the biggest psychological challenges faced by long term prisoners is not having a future to plan for. We like structure and even those of us who like or even relish change appreciate the need for a framework and some degree of certainty in daily life.
This structure has been thrown up in the air for the last few weeks. We talk to each other about what we are going to do “when this is all over” but we can’t make any plans at all. We have little sense of any timescale. As days run into weeks and weeks run into months, it becomes increasingly hard to plan for anything at all. We are left with a sense of discomfort which is confusing, disconcerting and upsetting. A wilderness.
Words translated as “wilderness” appear around 300 times in the bible. The Hebrew people spent their formative years wandering in the wilderness searching for the promised land, both physically and metaphorically. Isaiah’s wonderful vision of the future in chapter 35 begins: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom”. Elijah encountered the “still, small voice of God” in the wilderness. Moses met God in the wilderness of the barren slopes of Mount Sinai. And the wilderness figures in various defining moments in the life of Jesus.
In the bible, the wilderness is where God prepares his people for the next step in their calling. It is not a comfortable place to be but it is temporary. It is a place of planning and preparation, praying, contemplation and even hope. It has been said that the wilderness, as much as we would want to resist it, is where God does some of his best work.
The unprecedented global crisis through which we are living will pass. It is a short-term wilderness. We can use it for good. There will be silver linings amongst the black clouds. We may not see them now but they will become apparent as time goes on. Living quietly, keeping still, trusting in a future we cannot control are not easy things to do but we can do them and, “when this is all over”, we will reap the benefits for ourselves and for society.
God bless you all.