On the pilgrim way: ‘Spiritually, I am being cut down to size’
In these strange times, what I write in late March may no longer apply when you read this. Nevertheless, I write.
Nature is putting on its very best show. I look out on a magnificent magnolia. My pots are full of bright tulips. Goldfinches and blue tits crowd my feeders.
We have more offers to do our shopping than we can use. Texts and phone calls and even Zoom video calls from family and friends fill the day. Our minister prepares a Sunday service on YouTube and there is a regular crisscross of church family phone calls. We go out for a walk every day, carefully avoiding others. I think my husband is actually walking more than usual. And we have each other.
At first, it seemed like an extended holiday. Now, it is beginning to seem like kindly house arrest. I have never read much news, and I am not inclined to change my ways. Perhaps I should. Would it help anyone?
I am very conscious of the suffering and anxiety of those within my personal network. Couples where one is in hospital and cannot be visited. Younger widows who normally deal with their loneliness by going out a lot. J, who cleans for us, S, who cuts my hair, and thousands of others who now have no, or little, money coming in. A daughter in senior management, now working from home, has conference calls all day, as the company decides what to close and at what financial and human cost. A nephew, who is a kidney consultant, can see his dialysis patients going down the priority list with, in some cases, fatal consequences. Families where relations are strained are cooped up together.
I remember them all in prayer. We light a candle of hope in the window, every evening at 7pm. I hang on to the belief that this helps.
There are some real blessings coming out of all this. I hear so many people expressing thankfulness – for their gardens, for their kind neighbours, for family support, for the internet, for the NHS. When we go out for our daily walk, there is so little traffic that we can hear the birds sing before we even reach the woods. Everyone we pass, at a distance, greets us. The sky is clear of all but the occasional plane. Nature, worldwide, seems to be recovering from us.
I feel, spiritually, I am being cut down to size. I am the object of so much care and that makes me feel old. I am used to planning ahead, and that too has been taken from me. If I keep saying Psalm 131, perhaps God will eventually lodge it in my heart.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and for evermore.
Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform
This article was published in the May 2020 edition of Reform