Life as we knew it has come to a screeching halt. Not only has it come to a halt but we have been violently taken prisoner by a mean and cold abductor. We have been denied the freedom to attend church, gather and socialize with friends, go to the beach, a restaurant or exercise in public parks and savannahs. All of these are activities we not too long ago, took for granted. Even our vocabulary has been affected. Words like pandemic, social distancing, quarantine, sanitize, virus, tested and death have become commonplace and part of our everyday vocabulary. Fear and despair then leaped at their opportunity to join in, making every effort to ensure that we are properly bound.
I can barely describe the feeling I got when it was announced that churches and places of worship should remain closed. I felt like I had just been told I can’t breathe air any more – yes it sounded that absurd to me. I was at work and my colleagues and I were listening to the press conference being carried out by the Prime Minister – well to be honest I was probably half listening; multitasking between listening and completing some work on my computer. Not much else caught my attention but churches to be closed did. “What”, I exclaimed! “Churches to be closed!” “So I am expected to come to work but I can’t go to church.” At the moment it seemed unimaginable to me. It is not unusual for us to sometimes have loud and spirited discussions at my workplace, so no one was alarmed or offended by my outburst. A coworker took the time to explain to me the logic and the reasoning behind the closure. I eventually conceded. It was not that I did not understand, but I think it was just the initial shock of it. I confess, I have opted to stay at home on more than just one or two occasions when I should have attended church, but to not have the choice at all, was not too well accepted by me at first.
This is an unusual time for all of us. We have had to make adjustments to our physical everyday way of life and we have had to make mental and emotional adjustments. We have also had to make spiritual adjustments; in terms of the way we worship. What then do we do with all this time that we now have due to the adjustments we were forced to make in our lifestyle? I would not attempt here to give you a long list of suggestions of things that you should do to engage yourself, young children or other family members during this time of shut in, for I am convinced that you are more than capable of coming up with that list on your own. As individuals we are very resourceful and instinctively know how to rise to a difficult challenge. I like to think of it as a survival instinct; we will do what we need to in order to survive.
Due to new working arrangements I found myself at home for an entire week. I was able to use the time to read more, write and exercise; three things I enjoy. I have also found the time to reflect and self-evaluate more. I noticed how different this week was from if I were on vacation, because had I been on vacation I would have been using every opportunity to meet up with friends, plan family outings and just going about with speed. I know you’ve heard it before; life has become so busy. We are busy with keeping busy. But this is a time in which we can quiet ourselves, reflect, introspect and reconnect to who we are. Maybe reconnect to some things we enjoy that we have not been able to find the time to do because of all our busyness. Reconnect to those things that make us uniquely us.
I am currently reading a book by Johann Harri titled “Lost Connections”, in which he explores explanations for depression and anxiety other than what we have been told about the cause being a chemical imbalance in our brains. According to Harri, all the social and psychological reasons for depression and anxiety are forms of disconnection. Through lots and lots of research; interviewing several scientists, psychiatrists and persons who experienced depression, Harri identified nine key reasons for depression and anxiety. They are disconnection from meaningful work, disconnection from other people, disconnection from meaningful values, disconnection from childhood trauma, disconnection from status and respect, disconnection from the natural world, disconnection from a hopeful or secure future. The final two causes are a certain type of 5- HTT gene and biological changes in the body, both of which can make a person more vulnerable to depression when faced with any of the other disconnections, but are not necessarily causes in themselves.
While Harri’s book is a good read and I am quite enjoying it (you should totally check it out if you get a chance), he points out that part of the problem of depression is that we are fixated on self. “No don’t be you, be connected with everyone around you”, he says, while making a case for reconnecting with others. His point is understandable. However, I believe also reconnecting to self, reconnecting to who we truly are, can aid in fighting depression and is even necessary to maintaining a healthy mental environment. Often times we tend to lose the essence of self in the ‘rat race’ that life has become, and in all the busyness.
So I encourage all of us, during this time of isolation, use this opportunity of slowing down, not just to reconnect with our children and spouses and loved ones living in our homes but to reconnect to ourselves and most importantly our God; from whom we find our true sense of self. While church provides us with many things including a sense of community and belonging which is important to our development; I thank God that it is not the only place that we can connect with Him. I am grateful that we can connect with Him any place, anytime.
Finally, if we do find ourselves feeling anxious during this time, apart from taking practical measures like consuming less news which would help ease our anxiety, let us be reminded that God has promised to keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3). He has promised hope in despair (Psalm 43:5) and I like the way on preacher puts it; even when He provides minimum protection he has promised maximum support (see Psalm 23). During this trying time and always we can have peace and a hope; we have something to look forward to. Some of the lyrics to a popular hymn says:
I believe when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Author of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:
Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!
Reconnect to yourself and your God. Shalom!