By Harry James
As the lockdown came, my initial sense was one or surrealism. Who would have thought that in our day and age we would be subjected to something like this? I suppose like many of us I thought, or rather hoped, that the government was maybe overreacting and that this would be short lived. But as the infection rate and death toll climbed, not just in our country but worldwide, the truth of the devastating effects of COVID-19 began to sink in. Friends who own their own businesses are in very difficult positions and I empathise deeply with them. However, the fact remains that people’s lives are at stake and I am grateful that our leaders were prepared to make really difficult decisions in order to save lives. I do not envy them, the responsibility that rests upon their shoulders in the least.
My own journey during this period has been difficult. Many of my thoughts and emotions have not even been conscious or clearly articulable. After the initial whirlwind of activity and preparation for lockdown the reality began to dawn that I cannot freely come and go as I please. Initially this was manageable but as the days passed, I started feeling more and more confined. I started missing so much that I had taken for granted, things like being able to go for a walk or to visit friends. Most of all I miss community. The blessing of engaging with people freely and without fear or restriction is probably not going to be part of our daily lives for quite a while. This is extremely sad. I have come to realise that we are social beings, that God has deeply ingrained within each of us the need for community. This is probably the reason why God has called us into community, because it is only in community that we can realise our true humanity.
I am enormously grateful for my family with whom I have been able to spend lockdown. I cannot begin to imagine how much more difficult it must be for those who have been separated from their family during this time, or who do not have any family to be with. I guess all these realisations are one of the blessings that have come from this lockdown experience. Suddenly the small things in life really matter – freedom of movement, being able to go for a walk, to shake a friend’s hand. When Alert Level 4 was brought into effect, I was extremely grateful to be able to go for a jog in the mornings again. Yet with the additional freedom also came anxiety, anxiety at being exposed to people again and the increased risk of infection. As Level 3 has come into effect there is again a mixed bag of emotions coursing through me. I am excited to be able to see friends and colleagues again, but sad that we will have to maintain social distancing and anxious at the increased risk once again.
As we journey together through this new landscape I realise more and more that we are not in control. As scary as that is, it is also profoundly liberating, especially because we know that God journeys with us through this difficult time. I have struggled with the lockdown; I have felt confined and frustrated. I have been unable to move about like I want to. I have struggled emotionally and physically. Yet I am coming away from this with a deeper appreciation for life, for others and especially for my relationship with God. Maybe I am moving toward a place where I can more honestly agree with Wesley and say that “the best of all is, God is with us”.