NORMAL SERVICE INTERRUPTED!
As I write to you from southern England the sun is shining and a gentle breeze wafts across a blue sky, and I am having coffee in my garden rather than rehearsing Debussy ‘Images’. I have been the principal bassist with the Bournemouth Symphony for some 34 years but last 17th March my existence came to an abrupt halt. Having prepared Strauss’ mighty opera ‘Elektra’ to the point of dress rehearsal we were then suddenly sent home. Up until that point I had been working flat out with my orchestra as well as teaching and to go from all that activity to nothing overnight was a huge jolt. Suddenly having all this time - what was I to do? Mostly so far, the answer to that has been to get out on my bicycle which thankfully in England we are still allowed to do.
Talking with orchestra colleagues earlier today by Zoom this topic of anxiety at having no To-Do list came up again and I think it’s something that many of us who are used to living very busy lives are dealing with at this moment. For many people this time will be a time of stress or financial crisis or even bereavement. But for those of us forced to stay at home, forced to stop what we’re doing, this is a once in a lifetime moment. Now we have a unique opportunity to truly slow down and ask ourself deeper questions. Do you like where your life is taking you at such a fast pace? Is all your busy activity taking you somewhere you want to go?
Yesterday I was listening to a podcast where the concept of an ‘external schedule’ versus an internal schedule was discussed. For the most part our lives are ruled by our external schedule i.e. all the commitments we must meet such as work, childcare, shopping etc. In the usual run of things we often never get round to making an internal schedule i.e. a schedule designed to attend to those non urgent but very important things we yearn to do like taking a new course of study, making a retreat, learning to draw or paint, reading some great literature. These two approaches to scheduling are usually in tension but at this moment for those of us for whom the external schedule has died overnight we have an opportunity to focus attention on those areas of life that so often get crowded out.
I must admit the sudden death of my work commitments left me somewhat floundering. It's been about a month now since ‘lockdown’ and without any deadlines driving me, various mundane tasks have simply been piling up. So this morning I decided to get organised and write a to do list and schedule. First of course as a contentious Christian was my devotional time. However breakfast took longer than planned and then some other things had to be done so I sat down with only 15 minutes left to pray on the schedule rather than the full hour I had planned.
To begin my prayer time I opened a devotional I’m using this year (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) and words jumped out at me. “Walk with Me in holy trust, responding to my initiatives rather than trying to make things fit your schedule. I died to set you free, and that includes freedom from compulsive planning…A mind preoccupied with planning pays homage to the idol of control” Wow! That told me in no uncertain manner and my overly ambitious plans for the day were ditched. From that point I eased into an unhurried and extended time with the Lord before moving on to other things.
For those of us for whom life has come to a halt I would suggest we listen to the call of Jesus; “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mk 6:31. We have an opportunity at this moment to get truly quiet and so hear the voice of Jesus. It could be that you are simply refreshed and then when things start to return to normal, you take up where you left off. But on the other hand it could be that you get a different vision of what your life could look like. I am reminded of Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Our hectic external schedules often do not allow us that space to hear the new things that God would wish to do in our lives. So this season is a time of opportunity. Let's enter that quiet, with expectancy, ready to hear what our Father would whisper to us.
Photo: Courtesy of Eric Richmond