I am interested by our reactions to lockdown, by the psychological impact this has on us. This is not the place to discuss the morality or efficacy (or otherwise) of lockdowns, but I am intrigued by our reactions because they seem to me to centre on one common theme: control. Most of the time, we feel in control of our lives. We can choose where we go, how we live, how we travel, what we do. Or at least, we feel as though we can choose. In reality, there are many things over which we have, at best, limited control. I don’t drive, for example, so my freedom of choice in how I travel depends on public transport, the availability and willingness of others to drive me to my destination and my ability to walk to get to where I want to go. Again, I may feel free to determine when I rise and when I go to bed, but the truth is it depends on other commitments such as work and childcare provision as well, so am I totally free? The issue I feel which causes such disquiet during lockdowns is not simply to do with healthcare or loss of freedom, however; it is loss of control. We feel other people are dictating to us what we should do and how we should live, and this causes great internal strife.
As a Christian, I am called to live by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7) Life is about trusting an invisible God every day, about giving Him control in my life. Now there is a vast difference between giving God control and giving that control to a government which (if I’m honest) doesn’t really appear to know what it’s doing, but the truth is that for human beings, giving up control is probably the hardest thing we ever do. We like to feel that we are in control; we like to feel in charge. All our lives, we have been conditioned to believe that we are the centre of the universe and that life revolves around us. It is a shock to the system to discover that we are not in charge of our own lives and that a life of faith ‘does not consist in imposing our will (or God’s will!) either on other persons or on the material world around us. Instead of making the world around us or the people around us or our own selves into the image of what we think is good, we enter the lifelong process of no longer arranging the world and the people on our terms.’ (Eugene Peterson, ‘The Jesus Way’, P 45)
This process of embracing what is given to us – ‘today’, with all its imperfections and problems – and walking with God through that gift is not easy, but it does bring with it great rewards. Eugene Peterson goes on to say that ‘every time we set out, leaving our self-defined or culture-defined state, leaving behind our partial and immature projects, a wider vista opens up before us, a landscape larger with promise.’ (ibid.) Perhaps during this time we can learn once again what it means to walk by faith, letting go of control and learning to trust God. That way, even though we may feel great frustration and even resentment and anger at times, we can also make progress in our faith journey, learning to trust God even when we do not understand what He is doing or see where He is leading.