An image which speaks very powerfully to me is that of the Beloved Disciple resting his head on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper. In John’s Gospel 13:23 we hear how Peter is confused about what Jesus is saying about his betrayal so he looks to the Beloved Disciple, who we believe to be St John himself, to ask Jesus what he means. The Gospel says, ‘one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus’. I have always found this a beautiful image, it is one of intimacy and love that as modern Brits, I am sure, we find hard to comprehend! We seem to have a bit of a reserve when it comes to emotions between men and today it seems, any intimacy between men, has to be viewed in a sexual or erotic way, there is little room in the modern mind for platonic love and friendship between men. That is probably one reason why this image speaks to me so powerfully. In those rare moments where I actually imagine myself in the place of the Beloved Disciple, resting close to the heart of Jesus, words fail me. It is a scene of intimacy and tenderness. Above all it is a scene of profound trust in God.
When we think of trusting in God, I sometimes feel that the image of someone clinging on to the safety rail of a speeding rollercoaster car is the most apt. We are hurtling at speed, fearful of being thrown from our place of safety and we are clinging on for dear life. That will be our experience of trusting in God if we do not have a well-developed relationship with him. God is always watching over us, caring for us, the key is whether we are plugged in to that or not! If we are not, then it is like gritting our teeth and hoping for the best! The image of the beloved disciple shows us what a true and deep trust of God looks like. It is one where we are truly comfortable, at home in the presence of Jesus, we can be playful, intimate and tender with him and he with us, as we nestle close to his Sacred Heart. I have always been drawn to the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the fire, the thorns, the blood all speak of his passion for us, of his undying and eternal love. All we have to do is allow ourselves to be consumed by that fire! Ok, it’s a gentle fire and he’s not going to let us in unless we are ready for it and I know with me it’s baby steps. But the invitation is there for us all to enter into intimacy with Jesus.
I have been trying to avoid saying this, but it does look like a second lockdown is coming. There, I’ve done it, I have peddled some doom! It struck me this week that the language and hints coming from ‘scientific Advisors’ seem to be preparing us for it. My gran used to profess to be able to read tea leaves, yes that is a thing apparently. I wish she were still here to help us understand what the government and its advisors mean when they say things. Maybe even she would struggle! But as I have been thinking about ‘Lockdown 2’ I have been thinking about what might be different and how I am going to prepare.
If we do lock down it is going to be a very different experience to the last one. Do you remember that amazing sunshine we were blessed with? It was phenomenal. Everyone was out on walks and there was a sense of novelty about the whole thing. It was a unique experience that we would never have again! If we do lock down again, there will probably be a lot less sunshine, even a lot less daylight, it will be hard, as in Nordic winter hard, it will be an endurance test rather than an unexpected holiday. I am thinking how I might approach the next lockdown differently. Last time I went into fight mode, the church doors were closed but we are very much open. We put a lot online and while it was amazing, I found it exhausting. I was caught between really needing a daily discipline, routine and human contact and accepting the situation for what it was. I wasn’t too good at the last part. This time, if it does come, I think I am going to go with it a lot more – you can hold me to that! That doesn’t mean I like the idea of it, not one bit, but I am not going to fight it so much. It looks also that this peak might be more devastating that the last and while I will be consuming less news, I will still be anxious and nervous for those who are struggling and dying. One thing I am going to try and do differently is to trust.
Last time I was on the rollercoaster, this time I want to be nestled next to the heart of Jesus, trusting that he has got this, that he has got you, that he has got me. That trust means sitting still and being close to the Lord, not getting consumed by the events of the world around us.