I remember finding a mysterious tube on my dad’s old workbench in the basement. I asked him what was in it? There was no label at all, and he didn’t know, or claimed not to know. He invited me to squeeze it and find out. My hands were soon covered in a black lubricant of some kind. That is when I learned that if you want to see what is inside “apply pressure”. Whatever is inside comes out when squeezed!
We are all feeling the pressure of the current health crisis and it is revealing for good or ill what is inside our shiny facades. The results are mixed. On the one hand we see panic and selfishness evidencing an inner distrust and self-centredness. On the other hand, we find thoughtfulness and creative encouragement. Both are ‘coming out’ under pressure and they reveal the things we should affirm and the things for which we ought to repent.
To make this personal, let me illustrate. ‘Social distancing’ is a good and necessary thing but my original embracing of this new lifestyle was not to protect others. My motivation was out selfishness and fear! Last summer I suffered through a flu. In recent years my lungs seem to be susceptible to these things, with each being worse than the last. The thought of another potentially more serious virus frightened me. I do not like to admit to fear, even to myself, but this fear was dominating my thinking.
Under pressure fear came gushing out! I had to face the facts, my actions might be good, but my heart was wrong! Outwardly that is making little difference. I continue to social distance. I feel I have been training all my introverted life for living in such times. I now admit to myself and God, my fear. I think about the vulnerable people like my son and daughter-in-law and I purpose to love them through social distancing. As I allow love into the equation fear abates. “Perfect love casts out fear.”
Having the hidden things revealed, under this pressure is a blessing rather than a curse. It gives us a chance of self-examination like no Lenten season ever could! It may not be pretty, but it can be purifying if we ask “Search me, God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts” Psalm139:23
Speaking of Psalms, I have rediscovered the power and scope of Psalm 23 through this time as I have been watching a video series “Travelling Light” by Max Lucado. It is a series of 18 half hour sessions all based on the 23rd Psalm. This master wordsmith takes me deep into a psalm I had thought I knew. I had memorised this psalm before I was 10. I have read it thousands of times since but all too often I race through it. Max has me travelling lighter but also slower as I appreciate the unplumbed depths of these seven powerful verses!
So, I have the opportunity to save others’ lives by resting with my Shepherd as he restores and nourishes my soul. I often challenge people to find the ‘missional’ opportunity in whatever the times may bring. This Lenten season provides us with a bountiful opportunity. If I don’t like what I see (and I don’t) when I am squeezed, what better time to be quietly renewed from the inside out.