One of my WhatsApp chats this week:
‘Do you feel like you’re going round and round in circles?’
‘It’s as if I’m permanently forgetting something.’
Can you relate?
Half of the adult population is on the front line, fighting the virus, half at home, going round and round in circles. All of us could have added a dozen more skills to our CV overnight and many of you are doing jobs bearing very little resemblance to the one you applied for.
For me, it’s circles at home.
– That daily walk around the block. (You can go back and forth if you have a hill to walk up or a take-away cafe to aim for. If you don’t, then that’s the golden rule of walks isn’t it? It must be circular.)
– The record-breaking number of boardgames being played. (Endless circles of passing the dice and taking turns.
–The mindless stirring of pots of soup, eggs, beans, Pot Noodles. (Anything to break up the monotony of another ham sandwich.)
– The washing machine whirring round and round (on overtime, thanks to teenagers shoving half-dirty clothes in the wash in a quick-fix attempt to tidy their floors).
I’ve been thinking of the Israelites wandering round and round in the wilderness. You can read Psalm 106 for a summary of what happened to them on their very long-winded journey to the promised land of Canaan.
Why did God feel the need to have them wandering aimlessly rather than go straight to their new home? You will have heard sermons about the important of their journey in bonding God’s people into a unified nation. In overcoming the struggles they faced, the people learned to depend on, and trust each other. Most importantly, in their wilderness, they learned to trust God.
2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
Exodus 16:2-5 (NIV)
We’ve learned (through Lockdowns 1, 2, and now 3) to appreciate having food and the right ingredients to make the meal we want. Before 2020, that was maybe something many of us took for granted. I imagine this was similar for the Israelites. Fairly helpless in the desert, their routine must have been very much centred on God’s food delivery service of manna and quail. Waking up to the soft, sweet flakes each morning must have felt very reassuring. But it must have been a real lesson to learn not to store the manna for the next day. Is there anything you are hoarding through lack of faith?
19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
Exodus 16: 19-20
How many people have strong white bread flour going off in their cupboards? How many people are discovering toilet rolls that had been shoved in airing cupboards and under beds in irrational panic back in April 2020?
Those of my friends who seem to be taking the mental toll of this current lockdown in their strides are the ones who insist on taking things one day at a time.
‘Just focus on getting through the day’.
While I was on today’s dark and puddly walk around the big block, I was thankful that I was not sitting at a swimming lesson, doing the school run, madly tidying up before another playdate, overspending on party bags, helping with homework late into the night, or ironing shirts (I don’t think crumples show online). There’s still lots to do, but it’s a different lot to do.
We’re learning to live differently as we go round and round our houses and our blocks. Many Christians are speaking of how God is preparing His people for something amazing to come. For those of us required just to stay at home, we’re blessed that we’re learning patience from the comfort of our homes, rather than from tents in the wilderness.
For many people, the harrowing jobs that call them to face Covid head-on mean they are climbing mountains day after day. It must be an absolute endurance test and so emotionally draining.
Several friends are going through the misery of the virus. Coming out of it, they tell me that the nights are the worst. They will not take breathing for granted ever again.
Helpless, other than praying for them, I remember that the same God who guided the Israelites at every moment of the day and night, is the God who guides us today.
21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.