LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA is Huddersfield Parish Church’s new blog series that we’ll be keeping updated with posts from various members of our church in the coming days and weeks. We hope it will help you to stay connected to the church and to each other in this time of physical distancing as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Today’s blog comes from Graeme, a member of the Serving team at St. Peter’s:
Feelings are gnarly things, aren’t they. They can have you riding a wave of euphoria one moment and then smacked down into the depths of despair the next. Particularly during unprecedented times like those we are currently living in, our feelings, and specifically our fear, can seem overwhelming.
The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, wrote about fear in his most recent book, published last year, ‘Freedom is Coming: From Advent to Epiphany with the prophet Isaiah.’ Speaking about the lengthy exile of the Jewish nation and the difficulties they faced in ‘keeping the faith’, he wrote:
“[Biblical faith]… does not depend on good outcomes but commits anyway. Richard Rohr puts it like this: ‘Faith isn’t for overcoming obstacles; it’s for experiencing them – all the way through.’ Fear is real and often entirely justified, but fear doesn’t have to be the final word if we dare to trust in God.”
We’re often told to be aware of other people’s feelings and, increasingly, to be mindful of our own. Emotional awareness and emotional intelligence are certainly things worth cultivating.
Over the past few weeks I have found myself interacting with people who have interpreted being mindful of their feelings as meaning that their feelings are somehow the only truth; the only thing that counts; that other people should be aware of those feelings and that anyone who feels differently is somehow in opposition to them; against them; an enemy.
Part of my own personal growth has been to develop a better relationship with my feelings. To be mindful of them, yes, but not to be a slave to them; to understand that they are feelings and that feelings are genuine and useful things, but also that feelings can be fleeting and they soon pass.
Feelings help us to understand, process and navigate the world around us, but they also bear scrutiny. Feelings are just that; feelings. They are not an objective truth in themselves.
As someone who identifies as Christian, I find myself wanting and needing to be visible, present and active in the world, and that comes with vast swathes of feelings. I am but human and therefore rather prone to them; not least a certain amount of fear. Those feelings, and fear in particular, can on occasion make me feel like I am standing in opposition to my fellow human beings, and not necessarily in a good way.
And yet the Christian faith is rooted in something that, as well as being present and active in every day human life, is also very much outside of our worldly experience. Something heavenly; something spiritual; something divine.
In John’s gospel Jesus says to Thomas “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” He is responding to Thomas saying that the disciples do not know where Jesus is going when he talks to them about leaving them and going to be with the Father. No doubt Thomas and the other disciples were experiencing a boatload of overwhelming feelings at the time.
But even among all their concern and fear and confusion, the answer – the way, the truth, the life – was standing right in front of them, clear for all to see; if only they could be mindful of their feelings but not be in thrall to them for a moment.
So, as we navigate our way through these times of fear and uncertainty together, pay attention to your feelings; be mindful of them, learn from them. Be aware of the feelings of others, who they are and what they need and, if you can, respond to their need in loving service. Then let your feelings dissipate and find your way to the truth. For it is there in that truth that the freedom of living in real love and relationship with others lies.
Stay safe. Stay well. Look after one another in love and faith.
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.