Wool Gathering

'For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.' Romans 12:3

Well, I last wrote when we were on Day 40 of Lockdown here in South Africa. And now here we are on Day 82! That's a long time of being restricted, of having freedoms curtailed and choices diminished. Or is it really? Nelson Mandela spent 14 months under house arrest; and this after 18 years on Robben Island, his time divided between a prison cell and a prison quarry. The Apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome for two years; that's 730 days. In comparison, 80 days sounds a bit measly!

Restrictions have been eased. We can now go out for a walk at any time of the day rather than at no time, as were the rules in the beginning. We can travel more than a 5km distance from our home. Our daughter is back in school in an attempt to finish her final year before she heads off into the world of university and the semi-independence of living away from home for the first time. And yet - we have to wear a face mask whenever we are out of the house; we queue to be allowed into the store to buy groceries, waiting for the sanitized clothes' peg which is the chosen method of 'crowd control'; we message and phone rather than visit those we care about; we Facebook Live church. Yes, eighty days is still a long time.

Eighty days for Phileas Fogg to circumnavigate the globe; eighty days for me to take a tour of my heart and see what lies within...

Information isn't always Insightful

At the start of our stay at home life, I tried to keep myself up to date with all that was going on around me. I'm not good with numbers so could never remember the exact details, but I still knew that it was getting worse, everywhere. Infection rates were rising, deaths were rising, panic was rising.

It is good to stay informed. But information isn't always insightful. Everything we read or hear comes with a back story of bias, a history we rarely know much about. We always bring our past experiences, both good and bad, into our present understandings of any given situation, and as such can be unaware, or just unwilling to accept another interpretation. In his book 'Wisdom', R T Kendell discusses the way personal blind spots influence our lives. By definition, we ourselves are blind to what may be all too obvious to those around us and yet we continue to make comment and act on what we can't fully perceive. Hence the great need for wisdom's guidance.

There is only one Person who sees the whole span of world history from the correct perspective. Yep, our Father in heaven. It is his reporting that I need to be paying the most attention to. Like never before I need to abide in him, to tuck in close and make sure I'm laying my head on his chest and hearing his very heartbeat. Easy? No, far from it. At the start of the viral invasion, anytime I drew close my only response was to cry; I couldn't think, I couldn't pray, I couldn't analyse or process. It was horrible! But in times of crisis and confusion, maybe that's all I need to do - to draw in close and allow myself to feel whatever I'm feeling in the safety of my Father's embrace. When our children experience the hurt of a bump or scrape they don't sit us down and figure out the whys and wherefores of their pain, they just sob with the breath-wracking shudders of the sore in body and soul.

It is from that place of safety and security that we can begin to hear the whispers of comfort and the encouragement to continue. I knew God was speaking about a major change that had arrived, a moment similar to when the caterpillar begins to spin her cocoon and start her metamorphosis from wriggling grub to flittering beautiful butterfly. Nothing remains the same; the caterpillar dissolves into a protein-rich soup of cells which become the building blocks for the body, the wings of the butterfly they are becoming. The chrysalis is the refuge, the hiding place where this miracle of transformation takes place.

Our God is a refuge and fortress, a strong tower into which we can run and allow ourselves to be radically transformed from one degree of glory to another. But we need to be prepared to enter in, to mourn the loss of our caterpillar selves before we can become the butterfly of his intentions. Just as the caterpillar has no pre-knowledge of what is about to happen, or what the outcome will be, I have little idea about what comes next. But I know my Father, and I know he works all things for the good of those who love him. I know he has a plan and a future for which he is preparing me. For this, I need his insight rather than the world's information.

Create-ivity and Product-ivity

During those first few days and weeks of lockdown, I struggled to locate my creativity. This is not a situation I am familiar with! I am usually alive with ideas and stories and concepts. It was on the second day that I woke up and realised I was to going to have to do something to keep myself creatively functioning. Writing a diary or journal seemed dauntingly impossible and so I had to think of something else. Crochet sprang to mind - I could crochet a square each day, so ensuring I was both making something on a daily basis whilst also keeping a visual record of progression through lockdown.

Given that our initial lockdown period was supposed to be a mere 21 days, this seemed an eminently achievable task. Eighty days on and we're still not exactly living life normally! I began with great gusto and made fabulous progress for those first few weeks but as restrictions have been lifted and I've found other things to do, I confess to becoming a little less diligent. But I do have a magnificent collection of handcrafted gems which now just needs joining into one glorious treasure. I might need another lockdown for that!!