How easy are you to live with? Really? Me too! I’m just a little bundle of joy! Actually, people often ask how my wife has tolerated me for so long. There are so many things to juggle - grandchildren, work, community - that the spark that brought people together in the first place can easily die. I guess that we never really know the true impact we make on those around us, until times like this when we find we have an abundance of time that we could never in a month of Sunday’s have anticipated. In enforced social isolation lockdown even the strongest relationships can be tested. Living in a disposable world makes it worse - when the going gets tough, it’s easier than ever to jack it all in rather than work it all out and there’s no magic formula for success. I’ve noticed that most arguments are often over tiny things - so here’s a useful question to ask when hostilities commence – “will it matter tomorrow?” If ‘no’ - which is most of the time - then stop! Isn’t it incredible that we sometimes chip away at our most precious relationship over something that won’t matter and we probably won’t even remember the next day anyway?
This time of Public Health emergency has made me increasingly aware of the importance of acknowledging the impact of others. So I’m striving to make the time and effort to actually tell them. It’s what I think the Biblical writers meant by ‘honouring’ those around us - be it friends, family, or neighbours. Never underestimate the huge impact our seemingly small acts of generosity, encouragement and compassion can make. As we fight the spread of coronavirus infection, I think we’ll perhaps never know a time when that is more true, or when those little acts of kindness, neighbourliness and community are more needed.
John Bell writes that “Without denying our understandable anxieties about health, family and finances, many of us now have the possibility of deciding what to do with this unique, and, God willing, never to be repeated, abundance of time. This causes some people to panic; panic about having to spend time with their spouse, partner or children, panic about not having access to the diversions of shopping, eating out, cinemas, pubs, football matches, parties. Many of us who often like to complain about how busy we are, and now have weeks of unexpected time, panic about what we will do with it. It’s as if time itself were a hostile force which our busyness helped us to avoid. Time is not an enemy; but it will feel increasingly like an enemy unless we cherish it, and it shouldn’t take a near death experience to help us cherish what we take for granted! So accept graciously this gift of time that we have been given.”
Bell reminds us that each of us, made in God's image, has a unique self, like no one else’s. “It’s often a complex self,” he says, “sometimes dominated by our work, or our major interests, or our moods.
But now, as we now enter this new period in our nation’s life, when much that engaged us has ceased, it may be that there are sides of our character, potentials within, unfulfilled intentions which can be given space. This could be anything from tidying our affairs to doing all the jobs and making all the contacts which our previous busyness forbade. It might also be that this is a time in which we begin to love into life all the broken and vulnerable aspects of our self which have been long neglected; because in these times when neighbourliness is all important, so too is the perspective of Jesus, that we cannot love our neighbour if we will not love ourselves.”
The emotional and psychological fallout of social distancing-lockdown may well be far reaching. Home isn’t always a refuge, prayer doesn’t always provide solace and limiting our physical family space certainly has its own challenges. Yet we can still feel grateful that we live in a society where the single most important purpose in life for just about everybody, whether we live with our family or live alone, is simply to show that we care enough to do the right thing in this time.
I still think I’m a joy and delight to live with; Skye, my springer-spaniel unconditionally agrees if her constantly wagging tail is any judge - but why is my wife shaking her head in utter disbelief?