Locked down, house-full, no privacy, no peace or quiet. This would have to be my non-comfort zone on steroids! Being an introvert—someone who needs solitude and silence as desperately as the parched ground needs the rain—these last few months have not been fun. I have had my bad days, and my worse days. Emotionally and mentally, these months have not been prize-winning to say the least. Yet, as ignominious a reflection as they are of me, they also have shown me displays of God’s handiwork. So let me share a few lessons that I am still learning in this season where I’ve been thrust out of my comfort zone and am scrambling for some sanity.
God speaks in the noise: As hard-wired as I am to thrive in quietness and solitude, living with three adults and two children in a two-bedroom flat has forced me to reconsider my alone times. I have swung from late night mindless scrolling on the internet to detox after a day of constant sound and conversation, to locking myself in the bathroom for a breather. That has invariably backfired because my six year old senses when I’m trying to wrangle some alone time and generally follows me to the bathroom and strikes up a conversation about her next zoom call and when it needs to be scheduled!
Remembering Susanna Wesley and her famous apron (google it), made me do something similar. I began to play worship songs loudly (add to the noise, if you can’t reduce it!) and sing and pray. The music helped me focus and the words helped me worship. And in those extremely unquiet moments, God has spoken loudly and clearly. It has been so refreshing to drink from the fountain of living waters!
God reveals the mess: A friend of mine recently said something that stayed with me. We were talking about how lockdown was making the most normal, sane people behave weirdly; especially how we ourselves were struggling with parenting and motherhood apart from other relational frustrations. And she basically said,
"You know Ruth, all this is not something new. These relationship problems, the attitude issues, the various tensions we are having to deal with, have always been there. It’s just that before lockdown we could walk away from the people or ignore the issues with other distractions. Now, we have no choice but to deal with it."
And I’m finding this so true. Instead of patting myself on the back for being (in my opinion) a patient, compassionate, caring, encouraging, and conscientious person, I have been forced by circumstances to see a not-so-very-pretty reflection of myself. I am impatient and angry with my children and husband, have zero compassion for others at the moment, definitely couldn’t care about another’s struggles and problems, probably would discourage everyone with my pessimistic outlook on life, and have no ability to manage my time or my work.
Amy Carmichael famously said,
"If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted."
The ugliness of my heart is being exposed through all these stressful experiences and it’s a reality check on an epic scale. I’m realising how absolutely unworthy and weak I am and how desperately I need a Saviour. The cross has never looked more beautiful!
God offers the real treasure: Although I long for some semblance of ‘normalcy’ and a corona-free world where I can be quiet and think in peace, only in these last six months—when life as we have known it thus far has been turned upside down and we are being forced to rethink even basic social interactions between family and friends, leave alone education and the workplace—have I truly and seriously thought about eternity. Despite being a Christian all my life, I would have to honestly say that eternity and life after death were essential theology that I knew intellectually and believed wholeheartedly; they just never affected my day-to-day living in any serious way. I mean, these were not weighing on my mind at the end of the day or questions that kept me awake at night.
Now, it’s like the veneer of ‘normal life’ has been stripped away, the physical and the spiritual are merging together, and all that this world offered in terms of entertainment, distraction, fame, pride, achievement, and comfort seem trivial and frivolous. It’s like a bright spotlight has been shone on the world, and all that I have sought and grabbed and fought for are shown to be glittery trinkets.
In contrast, my only real comfort and joy nowadays comes from the Bible. I am reminded of what Peter said to Jesus so plaintively yet so candidly – ‘But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ (John 6:68) During these past few months, only one song has been playing on a loop in my mind. It’s like there’s no off-button. Every day, at some point, I invariably find myself humming this tune or repeating the lyrics. Like a long-forgotten memory, it lingers in my mind and helps me focus on the real treasure:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace
Just these four lines. They remind me that this earth will soon pass away (after all, even locusts have arrived!) but ultimately my treasure is not to be found here.
Focusing on Jesus, is teaching me to endure, to run this race without giving up, to stay in the fight, to die to my self daily because ultimately, as the Good Book says, it will all come together gloriously for good. I’m learning that in the mess, in the confusion, when life seems like a train wreck, God is smack-gob in the middle of it. I don’t need to wait for things to return to normal to find Him. He never left my side. All I need to do is learn to refocus.
Photo by Cindy Tang on Unsplash
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