Blessings in disguise
The gift of time is probably the greatest bonus most of us will share this summer: what will we do with it?
Terry Young concludes his series with by exploring the unexpected blessings of a crisis
This is the fifth and final blog of a series exploring Christian responses to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Let’s start with a personal take on a crisis that rocked the world. In 1967, while my parents worked in what is now the UAE, I was outgrowing my artificial legs and so in May, Mom took us kids to Lebanon in hopes that there might be a prosthetist at the American University of Beirut able to create growing room. At some stage were joined by a US family having a short furlough.
A car accident had left our host without taste or smell, which I felt was an asset, since I was encountering boiled milk for the first time. But milk apart, it was a wonderful spring.
Travel was a social affair – the cab drivers would argue, take fares and make change, while driving at breakneck speed – and one day Mom and I set off down the mountainside. I got car sick and ruined the day for several strangers but when we met the specialist – presumably without the benefit of an accident to dent his sense of smell – he had nothing to offer, apart from an inch or two to my height.
Dad arrived soon afterward and started reading the bedtime story from the original Pinocchio, whose name he pronounced with a short ‘o’ in the middle. One night, he woke me and both families, theirs with four children and ours with five, squeezed into a VW Beetle. The cases, two per family, went in the trunk (at the front, remember) and on the roof, and I sat on Dad’s knee while the other chap drove. The children were all under 8 years old, so four knelt along that sunken parcel shelf peculiar to Beetles, while everyone else went in the back seat.
We crept down the mountainside, seeing very little in the blue-tinted headlights, and somewhere on the outskirts of Beirut we had a puncture. Eventually, we made it to the embassy, where someone who had realised more than we did, shared their food as we sat in the compound. The other family went first, but eventually we boarded a bus with an armed-guard at the front and one at the rear – and we drove out to a Pan Am 707. We made it to Turkey and, after a few days stranded without funds in an utterly unknown place, arrived at Heathrow.
The Six Day War is now history, but our family’s experience was one of safe travel, if of incredible stress for my parents. For us it was an adventure that came with an upside in the longest summer break ever. For me personally, it brought a set of new limbs from Roehampton, which was one of the best centres in the world at the time.
During this series, we have thought about big bad things that happen. We have thought about how God wants us not to be alarmed, and cited instances of God’s protection. We looked at how God speaks though the world events, and we have thought about the balance between being prepared and being at peace. Let’s finish with one other line of thought: the unexpected blessings of a crisis.
For me, it was a combination of better legs and a summer that extended into autumn with new friends and experiences.
I can’t guess all the possible benefits that you might encounter, so let’s focus on one. The gift of time is probably the greatest bonus most of us will share this summer: what will we do with it?
Clearly, many things look like being off the menu for some time – holidays, museums, galleries, picnics, walks, bike rides, swimming, you name it – but what can we do?
Our first circle of connections will, of course, be those among whom we are isolated. Any relationships to repair? Any memories to build? Games nights? Film afternoons?
How about building wider relationships? It’s not been possible before to isolate oneself and talk to friends near and far at the same time. The technology will take some getting used to, and conversations will flow differently. An hour is a brief dinner date, but it’s a long stretch for ‘phone call and even a Skype call can drag after 90 minutes, so some engagements will need to be set up carefully.
If you’ve used videoconferencing a lot at work, or if you’ve been teaching on-line, maybe this is a chance to pitch in while your church works out how to run something like a service on-line.
Maybe we can learn to pray better or differently. With only you and God about the place, you can just natter, can’t you? Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God is a short read. It’s not about long prayers or prayer that draws the heavens down. It’s about the quiet confidence of a chat. An on-line service at a computer near you will deliver it to your door.
Maybe there’s a writing project in you. Maybe it’s time to write up the things God has done for you. Maybe you could help someone else get started. I worked with my Mom for a few years to turn 1,000-word stories into her autobiography.
Maybe it’s planning time you are being given. Usually we’re too busy to plan, but now may be the exception. The most successful people over the next few years will be those who worked out what to do next, and some of them will have been smart enough to use the crisis to create the time.
I’m looking forward to more reading, but I need to do something new. I’ve reviewed some study material on 1 Peter and for reasons I won’t go into here, want to know how easy it would be to memorise the letter. So, before the autumn, I’d like to see if I can fix the text in my mind for good. Isolation is great for memory work – which Bible books would you like to know better?
The time is there. It’s a gift. What will you do with it?
Image | Photo by Nathan Dumlao | Unsplash
Terry Young was born to missionary parents working in the Middle East. He has always tried to unify his life of worship and secular missions, and has been part of church leadership teams in Essex, and at Slough Baptist Church. He has written a few books that link worlds, including After the Fishermen, and Jake, Just Learn to Worship.
After a mobile early childhood his family settled in the UK to the northwest of Birmingham, and eventually he studied at the local university. After his doctoral studies he worked for 16 years in Chelmsford undertaking research and business development in the aerospace sector, where his interest was in fibre optics and photonics. In the end he gravitated to healthcare systems and move to Datchet with a position as a university professor
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