As a teenager I worked in a theatre as an usher. I got to watch lots of plays over and over aa. One production which stood out for me was a three man play set in the intimate Studio Theatre of the Salisbury Playhouse. The play, the name of which I cannot recall, was based on the imprisonment of Terry Waite and John McCarthy by Hezbollah in the late 1980’s. The actors were not playing the role of Waite or McCarthy but of three men, an Englishman, Irishman and an American imprisoned together. The play centered around the beautiful interplay between the men, moving between solidarity, hope, fear, despair, and their sometime dislike of each other. It left a big impression on me. The thought of solitary confinement has never appealed to me yet there are amazing stories like those of Waite and McCarthy or Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan who was imprisoned by the Vietnamese authorities for thirteen years. These Christian men all kept hope alive in their hearts and while they suffered greatly, they remained steadfast in hope and grew in intimacy with God.
I am not going to liken this lockdown with the experiences of those courageous men, but we are undergoing some form of imprisonment. For some of us it is more akin to a solitary confinement for others being locked in with their families brings an almost unbearable pressure. Those affected the most seem to be parents who are working from home and home schooling too. While I seem to meet and encounter really positive people, I am aware that not everyone is approaching the current situation with positivity. If you are one of those people, I am sorry you are struggling, and I hope things get better soon. I am sure that many of us have struggled in different ways over the course of our lives, one concrete thing I have learned along the way is that my experiences are shaped by my mindset.
At times in my life, I have felt hopeless and at others while things have not been perfect, I have felt very blessed. The difference in those situations has been where I have been looking. I have stayed hopeful when I have had my eyes set on what I have, on what God has blessed me with. This attitude is based on gratitude and a sense of poverty. Maybe a better way of understanding poverty is saying it is a recognition of what I haven’t got and therefore an acknowledgement that I have to rely on the Lord for my needs. When I have struggled most, I have been looking at what I think is not right with my life, and then I begin to be overwhelmed by doubts and fears and consumed by resentments and sadly self-pity. In my experience, perspective changes everything.
How each of us experiences this pandemic will depend on a lot of factors but one of the most significant will be our mind set. If we can keep things simple and look at how God blesses us each day, we will experience happiness and joy, even when things aren’t perfect. Often, I can turn the things I am blessed with into my biggest complaint. If something goes wrong with my car, I get angry rather than being grateful I have a car and money to get it fixed. I can complain I am busy rather than be grateful I have meaningful work which is fulfilling. Sometimes when feeling lonely I can be resentful of those with company rather than picking up the phone and calling a friend who would love to talk. How we see our situations will affect how we feel.
God blesses each of us in profound ways. If we can see that we will blossom even in the midst of adversity. Terry Waite, John Mc Carthy and Cardinal Van Thuan were all men of faith and it was their faith and intimacy with God which led them to survive, grow and even flourish in the most brutal of conditions. It is our faith and dependence on God, or lack of, which will shape our experience of lockdown. We are somewhat weak and fragile creatures, God knows that, that is why he has given us each other. Let us be the community of faith he calls us to be supporting each other with our various difficulties, together – with each other and the Lord, we can each flourish even when things seem hard.