Message from Tim
From lockdown to freedom
It is now four months since we entered Lockdown #3 on 5th January. The first step towards freedom was taken on 8th March when schools and colleges reopened and we were allowed to meet one other person outdoors for exercise. We are now over halfway towards the magic date of 21st June when it is hoped that all legal restrictions on social contact will be lifted. People are divided over the time we are taking to navigate this roadmap. Given that it is now said to be safe (but not yet legal) for two fully-vaccinated people to meet indoors, there are those who might feel that restrictions should be lifted more quickly. On the other hand, Imperial College modelling suggests that following the current roadmap could still result in an additional 15,700 deaths by the summer of 2022, which is worrying for those who feel that we are lifting restrictions too quickly. Then there are those who applaud the government for holding their nerve and sticking to the plan, while wondering why on earth we did not adopt this policy a year ago…
Four months is a long time, but the success of the vaccination programme, the sense that we are headed in the right direction at last and the improvement in the weather have all combined to give us a sense of hope for the future, even if we are not sure what the future will look like post-Covid-19. And four months is a lot shorter than 40 years, which was the time it took the people of Israel to make their own journey out of lockdown in Egypt towards freedom in the Promised Land. For them it was a lengthy and traumatic period of transition. Are there lessons for us to learn as we make our own progress through these weeks of change?
Those of us who naturally inclined to be risk-averse may find it difficult to cope with uncertainty about the future. We prefer what we know. Some people in the wilderness were so scared of what was happening that going back to slavery in Egypt seemed a lot safer than trusting God for an unknown future. It is easy to view the past through rose-tinted spectacles, and to want to revert to what is familiar. Yet when God called his people out of Egypt he committed himself to a covenant relationship with them and to lead them to the land he had promised to give them. Here and now, God is in our midst, and his presence will be with us in our future too. We are not alone; he will guide us and provide for us every step of the way that he has planned. He has promised that he will keep faith with us, and he calls us to keep faith with him.
If our natural inclination looking ahead is to fear the worst, then we are likely to react rashly in stressful situations, to have a short emotional fuse, and to have difficulty trusting those who have responsibility for our welfare. The people of Israel grumbled all the time, and one of the root causes of this was a lack of faith in God. Their feelings were fuelled by fear, not faith. Trusting God is a conscious decision: I frequently find myself asking God to be in charge of what happens in the course of a day and to be in charge of how I respond to what happens. I may have no control over events as they unfold, but I can invite the Spirit of God to govern my heart and my mind. If we do this, then as Jesus said, the Kingdom of God is within us. The most important thing is not what we know, but who we know. It may be tempting to look back and daunting to look forward, but if we fix our eyes on the God who is with us, then he is the one who will bring us all safely out of lockdown into freedom.