Bishop Martin Seeley suggests we don't look too far ahead for the things to be grateful for
We all seem to need something to look forward to, something to keep us going through the fear and frustration of the pandemic, and of this third lockdown.
For the last couple of months of 2020 it was Christmas – and the glimmer of hope that things might get easier.
But then came new variants, and the third lockdown.
So then it was vaccines – and that of course is still very much the course out of this – but now the degree of safety we need may take longer, and the new variants mean we will still need to be very careful.
A vaccination every year seems very likely, to try to respond to whatever new variants appear.
So in the last couple of weeks, we have turned our attention to imagining, just imagining, that things will be better enough in the summer that we can actually go away on holiday.
Something to look forward to.
My wife and I had booked a week in France for last August and were due to go just as the Government put France on the quarantine list.
So we rescheduled – rather bizarrely, I have to say – to November, which of course came and went.
So now we have shifted the booking to the summer – hoping.
And then a Government minster tells us we shouldn’t book holidays.
I was relieved that Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP, has spoken in more positive terms, recognising that it is too early to know, but that they were working to make it possible.
And that he had booked his own summer break 'months ago'.
We all, including our Government ministers, need something to look forward to.
But maybe we are trying to look too far ahead, particularly when our experience so far is that when we get close to what we were looking forward to, it moves further away.
And we have probably all been doing this for some time now, maybe without realising– we have been learning to look forward to something that actually is in reach, and is not going to move.
Something that is not going to be affected by whatever stage of the pandemic we are in.
It is these points that are sustaining us, even in our weariness, and however much we may long for a holiday, right now it is these nearer goals that are really important.
And when you notice them, you are immediately grateful – and for me, that is gratefulness to God that through this time, God gives us strength, and courage to face these days, and beyond.
I look forward during these hard times to routine sources of refreshment that sustain me, including time with my family, and these routine sources have become important for so many of us.
So my day is punctuated with things I look forward to, the same things every day.
The first cup of strong tea. Saying daily prayers online – with an amazing community of 80 other people. Dinner with my family, and then time in the evening with them, usually watching television.
Ordinary, daily events, but each one brings its own refreshment and keeps my day in balance.
Or looking forward each week – to family day on Saturday with odd jobs, cooking, catching up, a walk perhaps, a couple of hours woodturning (without the family!).
I have learned to treasure and savour these moments, these routine events and activities that provide their own refreshment, and learned to be thankful for each of them.
Of course I want to go on holiday, but I am thankful for the gifts I have been given right now, in front of me, and I know these will sustain me even when that summer holiday may have to be rescheduled again.
- Bishop Martin Seeley is the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and is writing a weekly article for readers while church services are disrupted by the pandemic