March in Melbourne is my favourite time of the year. It’s sunny, but not too hot, I can safely take my ‘bushfire bag’ out of the car boot for another year and the cooler nights promise a better sleep. They’re small things, personal to me and where and how I live, even though right now they are backgrounded by empty shelves in my go-to supermarket and ripples of anxiety.
In an effort to keep this pesky coronavirus at bay I shopped around for hand sanitiser, only to find there was none.
I’m usually happy to stay at home, but not for days and weeks at a time. I like to meet a friend for coffee now and then.
I look up at my notice board at a wedding invitation showing the happy couple encircled by a heart shape. I was looking forward to that wedding– now cancelle
Reluctantly I watch the evening news and swing between fear, compassion for those affected by closures, impatience with political dithering and an underlying resentment that my nice life has been interrupted.
It’s unnerving to discover, or accept, that something is happening that is beyond my control. Of all the things I have learnt – and taught- over the years, I can think of nothing that should be more helpful to me right now, than being able to live calmly and prayerfully in that now.
Not many of us live wholeheartedly in the present, We move constantly between what is past and what is to come. Right now our future is shadowed with uncertainty. We’re being asked to stay put, borders are being shut, self-isolating is recommended, and in some cases imposed.
The concrete reality of our now is always a mix of good and bad, light and dark, life and death. Raking in the garden a couple of days ago I saw a glint of red among the left-over debris of the hail storm we had in February. It was just a small piece of rock, but I liked the colour, picked it up and idly turned it over in my fingers. The flip side was a worn dull brown. Something in me said, ‘keep it’. So I have. It’s sitting alongside my laptop, red side up, telling me something about this time, about darkness and light, joy and frustration. I recall that the only time Jesus talked about the future was when he told his listeners not to worry about it. That’s easier said than done, but I try.
American spiritual writer Cynthia Bourgeault picks up Jesus’ words when she says that we need to fully occupy the NOW in which we find themselves – listening to the present with our heart, letting it speak with compassion, listening with a mind that is open to change, listening with our whole body as it recognises that’s it’s OK to grieve the losses we experience and rejoice in the moments that give us hope. Knowing that God is right there.
Judith Scully (firstname.lastname@example.org)