Particularly during this difficult time, when most of us are having to stay at home, or ‘self-isolate’, either for fear of infection, or because of infection, or Government instruction, some will want to seek reassurance in the face of deep anxiety. Some will be working extremely hard – we think of our health workers and shop keepers and assistants. Others will continue to work from home. Some of us will become ill, either on account of this virus or some other disease, and for whom we offer prayer. And some of us will die, as must we all one day. As the Book of Common Prayer says
In the midst of life we are in death;
Of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord
Nevertheless, one benefit of our ‘isolation’ is the slowing of life, and with that comes the availability of time. Time. That mysterious quality that invisibly delineates all we do. Relentless and unstoppable, tock after tick in a never-ending movement as we spin our way around our star. So unlike us (unstoppable), and yet like us (unstoppable). Many of us live such ‘fast’ lives these days, by which we mean ‘busy’, that there is little time to pause and experience time. And when we do, it doesn’t take long before many of us are ‘bored’, or at a loss as to what to do. Now we are forced to stop and the experience can be terrifying. We find ourselves at unease with ourselves, and perhaps strangers with those with whom we live and have taken for granted for so long. Excessive time, if unfocussed, can lead to all sorts of negative consequences, such as worry, shortness of temper, increased anxiety, loneliness, and ultimately depression.
But time focussed can lead to enormous benefits, such as the re-discovery of recreation that we once knew as children, in the days when we had time: the intellectual or emotional stimulus of reading, even reading aloud to each other or our children (my 24-year old daughter still asks me to read to her); the inspiration and wonder of good music; dusting down an old instrument and teaching our fingers to remember distant moves; digging out that forgotten painting set or drawing pencils and tentatively touching a blank sheet for the first time since when? Coming into Spring, as we are, means all the birds are starting to sing, so we can listen, and learn to recognise the different birds we’ve heard all our lives, but never known, by their music as well as their colour and jizz.
That’s the wise thrush;
He sings each song twice over
Lest you thought he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture.
The Open University also offers nearly a thousand free online courses lasting from just an hour to in excess of 50. What an extraordinary opportunity to explore and learn and understand. What a gift.
And then there is prayer – that deep well of stillness into which God invites each of us to rest in his presence. Prayer is the Sabbath. It is the Seventh Day of creation – the first day of human existence, and the day of God’s Rest. It is not so much an activity as an abiding. This is the one place where anxiety is quelled, dissipated, and evaporates in the warmth of a love so profound…
Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman (c) Sam Gao 2015
There are a few new pages on the menu above to help those who may be interested in exploring prayer further, especially in the context of this viral outbreak. Please do have a look.