(Today’s contemplation once again comes from across the Pond, this one written by the Reverend Steve Harvey, who serves as a vicar at Emmanuel Church in Loughborough, England. In addition to being a wonderful pastor, Steve also happens to be a great husband to our daughter Angie and a terrific dad to our three British grandchildren. We’re also rather fond of him.)
The warning encouraging passengers to take care when moving between the train and the platform is ubiquitous on the London Underground system (though not much needed at the moment, so few people are using the Tube). We tend to think of the gap (not the clothing brand) as something dangerous. Something inconvenient. Something that needs to be either filled or bridged. The physical (at least 2m) gap between me and the next person. The gap between our income and our expenditure, for instance—an increasingly pressing concern for many in this time of economic uncertainty. The gap between what is now and what might or will be in the future. The gap between our hopes and expectations and the reality we see on the ground. “It’s-not-like-it-was-in-the-brochure” syndrome, as we call it in our family.
When the lockdown began, I remember feeling an odd sense of excitement about it, like a kid who’s just left school for the summer. I was excited because I dared to imagine that the physical closure of our church building would herald a period of enforced calm from what has become a rather frenetic life of programs, meetings and general activity. I thought these weeks would be like a kind of spiritual retreat. How naïve I was! Instead, the ‘ordinary’ busyness has been replaced by the extraordinary busyness of trying to transfer the work of the church online—Zoom meetings, online services, video reflections to go out daily on social media, and so on. What happened was that I merely traded one form of busyness for another, though in many ways the latter seemed even more tiring for its newness and uncertainty.
The more I reflect on it, however, the more I feel drawn to the awkwardness of Holy Saturday—that day between Good Friday and Easter– as a metaphor for the current time. It’s a day when nothing happens. Not to our eyes, at least. But we don’t get from Good Friday to Easter by pretending that Holy Saturday doesn’t exist. No. We have to wait. We have to rest from our ordinary fixation of ‘making things happen’ and ‘being in control of our lives’ to simply being—to know what we can’t do and can’t control.
Perhaps we don’t need to try and replicate online everything that we would normally do in person. Perhaps our busyness recreating life via Zoom says more about us and our need to be needed or ‘useful’ than it does anything else. Perhaps the gaps in our lives at the moment aren’t potholes that need filling, but springs from which living water would burst forth.
During the last few weeks, our oldest two children have both learned to ride a bike confidently without training wheels. However, as parents who have lived that phase of life before will know, there is a gap between letting go of the child’s seat and watching to see if they’ll ride or fall. If we don’t let go, we’ll never know. Perhaps this is a time to trust that the habits of prayerful attentiveness to God we’ve sought to model and teach take hold—to loosen our grip of the seat and see what happens.
It’s too early to say what God might be teaching His Church through this time, and I’m sure there will be many lessons—God is unfailingly resourceful like that, turning the worst of circumstances into the greatest opportunity for good (isn’t that the Easter story all over?!). However, perhaps this time in the gap is a God-given opportunity for us to re-evaluate where we are—with ourselves, with others, with life, and with God. Perhaps this long Holy Saturday we’re in right now is God’s gift to us. Perhaps what we will discover is that we don’t need God to plug the gaps in our lives, because He’s already in them.
We may indeed find out, as Jacob did, that God is in this place, even though we weren’t aware of it (Genesis 28:16).