25 February 2021
As we emerge from the constraints of Covid-19, should we return to life exactly as it was before? These next few months are an opportunity to...
Dear Hope family and friends,
Wow! It looks highly likely that in three months’ time, all restrictions associated with the Covid 19 pandemic could be lifted (in the UK). It is hard to articulate just how extraordinary this last year has been for us, particularly in the West. We have all gone through an event without precedent within the last 100 years, since the (unfortunately labelled) ‘Spanish’ flu outbreak after WW1. Although some children were evacuated from big cities, even during WW2, children continued to go to school.
However, we have all experienced the restrictions associated with the Covid 19 pandemic very differently – no one person’s experience has been the same as another, even within the same household. And every individual’s experience has been a complex mixture of negatives and positives. Moreover, we have all experienced many ‘mini-phases’ in this season.
Therefore, whilst some will be rejoicing at the lifting of all restrictions, we are hearing again and again and again small throwaway phrases which suggest an ambivalence, caution, even apprehension concerning life going forwards. And almost all of these hesitations touch on the same theme: the comparatively exhausting ‘socially expected’ pace of life pre-Covid.
For this reason, we have framed this year a number of times as a ‘Sabbath’ rest year (in our talks on the Sunday live stream). Even if work has been more intense, or home (through home learning) made more intense, all of us have been invited into an enforced rest particularly around socialising, travel and in terms of faith, worshipping together in a large, corporate setting.
For those of us who already were enduring chronic illness, or in prison, and therefore were not socialising or travelling or free to meet beyond a limited sphere – we nevertheless also experienced all of society coming under the same restrictions similar to those we were already living with.
Chris and I have found that a weekly Sabbath gives us regular permission to rest in God and also realign with God’s peace and joy where we have gone off kilter. We believe this Covid 19 year is affording us the same larger life invitation. We are being given divine permission, so to speak, to reset, to re-evaluate every area of our lives with God, to recover a posture of rest in Him and also to realign into his peace and joy where we have gone off kilter. We would love us all in this season of ‘reintegration’ or ‘decompression’ or ‘opening up’ to pay particular attention to the Holy Spirit’s road map for us as a community over the next few months.
As part of this process, whilst we think it is important to pay attention to and label our emotions, we do not think at this stage it is wise to be guided by them. We may not feel like doing some things; we may feel like doing other things. As we know – in life – what we feel like doing can be contrary to what God has for us in His lifestyle and His purpose. (For example, we may not feel like exercising in the moment but if we recognise that his design is for us to be fit and healthy we overcome our momentary feelings of resistance in order to live the better way.) So let’s name our emotions, but then trust them to God.
Alongside this we also think it is unhelpful to be guided by what we think we ‘should’ be doing going forward. This has got us into all sorts of trouble in the past, and is probably a contributing factor to any apprehension going forward. We have been given an unprecedented invitation to draw a line in the sand; to be courageous enough to abstain from living out of any ‘shoulds’ any more.
The life is in the voice of God.
This is not the moment to live out of our emotions or to live out of our ‘shoulds’. However, this IS the moment to live out of the voice of God, to lean into God’s wisdom, God’s love, and ask Him what an abundant life going forward looks like.
So this period of our life is about engaging with the opportunity to re-evaluate with God our long term goals:
What kind of people does God want us to be?
What kind of contribution to society does God have for us to make?
What kind of legacy does God have for us to leave?
As we process this ‘end in mind’ with God and with one another, it will become clear what our day to day lives will need to look like in order to live into the ‘end in mind’. At a practical level, we might find it helpful to imagine every area of our life as at a crossroads with a traffic light, asking God and friends the following questions:
What is the red light?
What are the things we were doing that He is simply saying, ‘stop’.
What is the amber light?
What are the things we were doing that He is saying ‘pause, wait on me, don’t rush, don’t assume’.
What is the green light?
What are the things we were already doing / new initiatives that He is saying, yes, ‘go’.
Let’s use this opportunity during the next three months to listen to the voice of God. What is His road map for our restoration in this season? What are His red, amber and green lights over our lives? What are His good, pleasing and perfect plans for our lives? As we lean into him individually and as a community we will find that we will truly rejoice, not at the lifting of restrictions, but at the abundant life which He is inviting us to participate in.