Being present in the present with God
In the midst of the current turmoil, Andy Bryant has been counting his blessings, and realises that he has a lot to be grateful for.
Tumbleweed is blowing through my diary. The pages are almost blank, any event in the diary is now unusual. Just a few weeks ago my diary was so full that finding space for new appointments was challenging. Now each new day dawns open, wide and free.
We spend so much of our lives looking ahead, planning the next thing, tomorrow, next week even months ahead. The focus is so much on the future. We are told that part of good mental health is having things to look forward to.
But now we live not knowing when the lockdown will be lifted, and not knowing how it will be lifted, or what normal will look like as and when we can move around more freely. All planning is gone. There is just today.
Lockdown is not easy. The familiar patterns of life are gone, and life seems more vulnerable. Tasks we took for granted, like shopping, are now filled with a new anxiety. One day can start to feel like the next. Exercise is limited, there is nowhere to go out to, and there is only so much cleaning and weeding that can be done. Catch-up TV has all but been caught up with, and the pile of unread books is starting to get dangerously low. It must be bad as I am even starting to miss meetings, yet alone those myriad of little encounters that happen, and enrich, each day.
Yet as the rising numbers of deaths each day are reported our hearts turn to those grieving. We think of families not able to have visited their loved ones in their last hours or even attend their funerals. Then there are those whose loved ones are struggling with the virus and those unable to visit their relatives and be assured they are alright.
And in that light today suddenly seems the most precious of gifts and I am left counting my many blessings. Today I will have the company of my wonderful wife, the fridge and cupboards are full of food. We are blessed with a warm house and a lovely garden. Today we are safe and well and can be in contact with our daughter and her wife, both of whom are also safe and well.
And then there are all the small things that also suddenly seem so much more precious. The endless chorus of birdsong, the colours of the individual flowers, the frothy blossom on the trees, the busy buzzing of the bees, the first seedlings bursting through the soil, the warmth of the sun – and yesterday a first glorious butterfly. Because I am not rushing on to the next thing, because the diary is empty, I am suddenly, and thankfully, more aware of what is going on around me.
And most precious of all is the opportunity to be still. The chance to sit in the garden or to sit before a lit candle. Stillness is a wonderful gift, allowing the self to be more aware of the world around us – and the presence of God in all things. Unasked for I have been gifted the opportunity to not be rushing to the next thing, not to occupy myself in busy-ness. I have been gifted today and I am learning, all over again, that that is a very precious thing.
Throughout my life I have tried to be a good human doing. As at other moments of crisis in my life, I am remembering that I was created as a human being. I need, once again, to let go of the endless planning ahead and the business of being busy. I need to lay aside the worry of how long the lockdown will last and how it will end. I need to lay aside the worry of whether I will catch this virus.
Instead I need to value that today is the day. It is time to discover the importance of being present in the present – and allowing myself to be open to the Presence; the One who is at the heartbeat of each and every moment.
And in my stillness, I thank God many times each day for all those who are not locked down, who are busy risking their lives and making a difference, and most especially the staff of our wonderful NHS and all key workers across a host of sectors. I am in awe of their commitment and dedication.
Even as the lockdown has taught me to value the gift of the present moment, it is also teaching me to have a grateful heart. I can value being still because others are having to be so busy. Stay at home – yes. Save lives – yes. Protect the NHS – Yes. But more still, as I stay indoors, I am filled with a deep gratitude for those who long for a time when they too can be still and just be present in the present. Gratitude – yes!
The image above is courtesy of JamesDeMers on pixabay.com.
The Revd Andrew Bryant is the Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral. He was previously Team Rector of Portishead, Bristol, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and has served in parishes in the Guildford and Lichfield Dioceses, as well as working for twelve years with Kaleidoscope Theatre, a charity promoting integration through theatre for young adults with Down’s Syndrome.
You can read Andrew's latest blog entry here and can follow him via his Twitter account @AndyBry3.
The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norwich and Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate between website users.