It’s time for a moment of honesty. I got up early this morning before the rest of the house. I had some work to do that required the quiet of a calm house and was planning to get a head start. As I often do when I plan to work early I end up spending the first hour scrolling, drinking coffee, eating, praying, (writing blogs!). I started with the coffee and scrolling and it didn’t take me long to feel a little overwhelmed by posts, the news and articles…
These have been difficult news days for Northern Ireland. We sat around a table with our kids the other night and tried in some way, inadequately to explain what was going on. We sat around our table in a nice house in a quiet town where if we choose to turn off the news and not scroll on social media we could live as if the riots and trouble in other parts of our country are not happening. There was an element of fear in the room – one of the kids asked if family members who live in Belfast are safe. They have never known news like this. We chatted about how just because we’re not on the streets rioting doesn’t mean we’re not part of the problem, we chatted about how a family like us being passive, or dismissive about what’s going on around us can be just as much part of the problem. We prayed around the table. There wasn’t anything else to do. Ross and I chatted on after the boys left the table, talking about the past and our memories of growing up in Northern Ireland. In general I felt sad and helpless.
I have recently been feeling challenged by the enormity of the problems of the world and trying to work out my place in making things better. The reality is that I’ve pushed the world’s problems to the back of my mind for a number of years now. Dealing with cancer as a family takes an emotional toll. During Timothy’s hospital stays I couldn’t concentrate to read and would mindlessly scroll down Facebook or the BBC news app not even taking in what was there. I would skip over the articles that confronted me with the pain of other human beings and that asked me to think outside of myself. For four and a half years our lives have been so much smaller. There has been a part of me that has shut down my ability to feel around the bigger issues, a kind of emotional numbing because of the enormity of our challenges and because I feel so helpless to change anything. I feel so helpless even to change the daily reality of the life of my family, never mind the deep issues of Northern Ireland or the world.
In these last few weeks I’ve found myself getting a wee bit angry at times at the limitations that cancer, and to be fair Covid, has put on our lives. Even at the best of times, I am not likely to be an activist but I am so thankful for those who are. I know that I am designed to love people in the context of relationships. We’ve had a sense of call now for many years to share our everyday life with people who don’t know Jesus. We long to build real relationships with the people who God brings us into contact with and to be able to share and receive hope and practical support in the context of that relationship. We long to see people find healing and new hope in Jesus, for broken hearts and broken relationships to be restored and for those we encounter to be welcomed in to a new family. I long to practice listening hospitality, allowing myself to be interrupted to listen (and not making nice meals because I’m not good at that!), and to have time for people, particularly those who are outside of the church community. Being able to do this well at the moment though goes beyond what I am capable of both practically and emotionally.
As I was grappling with this early this morning I put on some worship music. You’ll know that it’s not unusual for God to speak to me through worship music. This song came on with these words:
I look around and all I see
Are burning buildings, barren trees
Hopelessness is starting to wreak havoc
Son of Man, I know You see
The deepest depth unknown to me
You have planted seeds among the ashes
You rebuild, You restorе all that’s broken
From the ruins You redeem,
You rеturn all that’s stolen (From Your children)
From Your children
That’s what You do
In many ways as a family we’re sitting in the ruins. If we took our eyes off Jesus for long enough we would be overwhelmed by all that has been stolen from us and overtaken by hopelessness. We also know what it is to be restored and have known moments of healing and redemption. These last few days are a stark reminder that it’s not just us who sit in ruins (a friend shared a statistic this morning that said that in 2019, 21% of children (approx 92000) were in absolute poverty in Northern Ireland!). Covid has wreaked havoc on all our lives but even more so on those who were living in difficulty before this all began. My heart is heavy because I want to sit with others in the ruins and I have no idea how to do that, and I certainly can’t do that in the way I would imagine if it were not for our own circumstances.
I have no great resolution to this post, or quick or easy answers. I imagine this struggle will stay with us for a long time as we continue to journey through cancer and covid. Thankfully restoring the ruins is not all up to me! It’s God who does the restoring and the rebuilding, from the ruins. So I desperately hope and plead with God that I get to be part of sitting in the ruins with others in some way even if it’s not quite what I would imagine.