Big Voice March 2021
In the wilderness!
If the year has seasons for our different human journeys and emotions to be explored such as summer holidays, harvests/michaelmas fayres, remembrance, Christmas celebrations, new year fitness resolutions etc – so March always finds itself in Lent.
In the past I’ve written here of the benefit of a season of 40 days both for spiritual and mental wellbeing as well as for breaking those unhelpful habits through our self-denial whilst perhaps taking up something creative and new. The Bible is full of seasons of 40 in people’s lives which were always times of transformation, freedom and empowerment.
But, this year we’ve had enough of being in the ‘wilderness’ – we don’t want any more 40 days of lockdown. It has been a year since our first lockdown – I remember it well as a weekend we were due to go to Birmingham for a goddaughter’s wedding which was coupled with my wife’s birthday. How we looked forward to getting away – until the wedding was cancelled with 2 days notice! Indeed my own son’s wedding went on to be cancelled in June and the postponement to this year looks doubtful! It has been hard on couples and their families – and we know how that is only a part of the much bigger picture – of the emotional, psychological, well-being, economic, health, debt, sacrificial costs of the pandemic. Those who’ve been able have tried their best at new hobbies, exercise, interests which seasons of 40 encourage – but parents didn’t expect to be teachers and so home learning for children has just capped it all; then there’s the depth of pain and sorrow through such great grief and loss for far too many people. We’re simply exhausted with it now, so it’s little wonder we don’t want any more time in the wilderness. We’re also indebted to those who keep on giving and giving in sacrificial service as front line workers. We’re grateful for each one of them and for signs of hope for the future.
40 days is understood to be a length of time which can be used to effect change for good in our outlook on life. For Jesus in the wilderness it was the prelude to his three years of work, message and sacrifice which are so life changing. In those 40 days he came to understand himself – what made him tick, what motivated him, how to take control of his desires, how to free himself from the opinion of others – how to give, love and only be motivated to serve with compassion and mercy. I expect that many front line workers have been through such a range of emotions and self-awareness in the depths of despair and exhaustion – and yet they keep giving and serving.
Hence, although we’ve had enough it’s in respect of them that we also persevere with our own personal lockdown; that we too sacrifice what we want in favour of compassion and mercy that we may get through this together. Sadly for some in the Bible the season was not just 40 days – but for the likes of Moses was ones of 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai after which he went back to Egypt to free his people!
This pandemic has gone on – there have been so many tragic losses – but the path out of the wilderness has now been found – and this Lent is the time for us to walk that path together for the last push that will see us able to gather and flourish again in community as I’m sure God created us to be. Until then may you know the strength, peace and hope from God which Jesus discovered in the wilderness and which ultimately led him to the victory of Easter.
With peace for Lent and hope for Easter.
Revd Andrew Norris