Painting and blog post written by: Gaylin Higginson
Things escalated fast! First rumours from distant lands. Stories heard from China of a mysterious growing virus. Then, news of the spread to surrounding nations. Before we had the time to look up from our screens, the rude intruder ‘COVID-19’ was on our doorstep demanding that we cancel every conceivable plan we have for 2020! How could something invisible to the naked eye travel so fast and cause so much shaking to every aspect of our society? Amid the grief, loss, and fear that COVID-19 has brought, could there be a ‘divine disruption’, a blessing in these dark circumstances?
Corona madness swept onto our shores in the UK in late February leaving the government in a frenzy trying to figure out a way forward through such uncharted territory. At the same time healthcare professionals took deep breaths as the magnitude of the crisis built on the horizon like a scene from ‘The Perfect Storm’.
As social distancing guidelines were implemented to ‘flatten the curve’ we saw plans and long awaited events being cancelled, gatherings shut down, schools and non-essential businesses closed. We saw all of our favourite coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants struggling to survive, and then ultimately close their doors ‘until further notice’. Meanwhile a stockpiling war waged in the aisles of our grocery stores, leaving empty apocalyptic shelves, and drastically increasing the value of toilet paper! We have seen the best and the worst of humanity emerge – acts of fear driven selfishness, as well as incredible gestures of generosity and neighbourly kindness.
Here we are, currently in lock down, counting the days with a lot of uncertainty ahead of us; but not without a daily dose of humour to brighten the days! There is no doubt that COVID-19 has disrupted every single one of our lives, and will continue to do so for an undetermined amount of time. We are all adjusting to a new normal. We are affected in similar ways, and in different ways; experiencing a plethora of different emotions which are neither right or wrong – but they are ours to feel and to work through.
The implications of this virus are beyond massive. Many people are working from home and finding online alternatives to connect with work, friends and family. For some it has meant unemployment and loss of income. A real struggle is to know how we are going to pay our bills, feed our families, or regain job security. Some of us are feeling isolated and alone – having to adjust to unstructured days. For others it has meant homeschooling our children and having a full house. Staying at home can be an enjoyable family environment, an opportunity to rest, to reset or focus on creative interests. For others it can be very daunting and complex; like those in abusive environments or struggling with addictions.
For key workers this disruption has meant even more hard work, adjusting to the imminent demands, and needing to dig deep to get through each day.
Whatever our circumstances, we are experiencing limitations on every side – we are experiencing loss, disappointment, grief and more. The temptation is to blame something or someone other than ourselves. But blaming will only attempt to shift our pain onto an external target and doesn’t resolve the loss we feel in our hearts.
The term ‘divine disruption’ is when something unexpected happens. This is usually something negative or inconvenient that disrupts our plans and interferes with our lives. But as a result of this change, life comes from it. The disruption leads to progress and change that would not have occurred without the unexpected turn of events. This causes us to pause, to re-evaluate, reset our path, and to make positive changes that redeem the negative event and bring growth. I have often heard of individuals who have experienced a major life crisis; like a car accident, an attack, or relationship breakdown. After recovery the individual becomes a better, freer, and more whole person as a result of their experience.
Divine disruption: These two words have been lingering in my heart over the past few weeks of unprecedented uncertainty. We are already seeing some beauty and positive things come in the midst of dark times.Please do not hear me incorrectly. I am not suggesting that the Corona virus was caused by God, but He creates good out of bad situations.
We can easily read about all the negative news and repercussions on our society, which are very real. But we can also recognise a divine involvement braiding through our homes and communities. I am more grateful than I was a month ago for things that I am seeing emerge in this crisis. I am not suggesting that we ignore the struggle, pain, and harsh realities – these need to be acknowledged and felt! But we can also look at the world, our communities, and our lives right now and find good things that we are experiencing amid the struggles.
And the People Stayed Home
A popular poem by Kitty O’Meara has been shared all over social media throughout the past few weeks. Kitty was originally from Ireland and lived from 1839 – 1888 and wrote this poem in Paris during the Cholera pandemic in the mid 1800’s.
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
This poem captures the essence of the blessing that is in front of us in so many ways. For many, being forced to stay home has meant distractions are removed. In the stillness we are faced with our fears and emotions that we have numbed for so long. Some of us are starting to feel the dust settle; we are pausing, reflecting, and being still for a moment. This creates an opportunity to allow ourselves to reconnect with our hearts again. To allow God into vulnerable places, or to simply be present, meditate, and allow ourselves to listen deeply. This is not exactly easy, but it is a platform for radical change. We heal and seek out truth in desperate times. When we abide in the Lord, it is always fruitful; though it can feel restless and inactive.
It is in this place of many tensions that we also start to question what is important in our lives. What kind of ‘normal’ do we want to return to? Now that our normal has been interrupted, we might as well tear down our old ways and re-evaluate what we truly value. What do we want to keep, and what shall we re-envision? How will we move forward into a healthier, more whole lifestyle and society?
This excites me! Creativity and innovation are birthed out of struggle or a need for a solution. We would not have invented the flushing toilet or Penicillin without dire need. During the great plague in Britain Isaac Newton was sent home from Cambridge in a similar ‘social distancing’ precaution. It was at home in the countryside that he made some of his greatest discoveries. Watching an apple fall from a tree in his family’s garden led him to discover the law of gravity!
It is in struggle that we grow – whether we are being challenged on the front lines, or at home. This is not pressure to force yourself to be your most productive self. But allow the grace to lead you to listen to your body, soul, and spirit and inspire change.
For the first time in history humanity is having a shared experience! Never has there been a time where we have had the ability to connect through technology in a global crisis that is touching most nations on the earth. How rare and amazing is that? COVID-19 has not discriminated according to economic status, culture, gender, or sexual orientation. No one gets a ‘get out of social distancing free’ card and none of us have immunity against this virus.
For the first time as a global community of humans we all need each other to get through this. In this bizarre season we can relate and empathise with one other as a community all around the world in a way that we have never been able to before. We have something that unites us as nations of the earth against this invisible enemy! There is so much scope for increased connection and compassion within humanity and between groups who may have previously been hostile toward one another.
We are not just collectively united to fight this virus together. We can be united in our experience of grief and loss, as well as kindness and generosity. This is a very bonding thing.
In the midst of the many unknowns ahead there is a divine disruption that is quietly seeping in. People are asking the question, “How can I give and bless the world through my gift or resource during this time?”
As a church – we have been forced out of the building! And we are finally realising what it means to be a body without our focus being on a physical church. God’s presence is filling our homes and we are connecting to one another in more meaningful ways. Our services and worship sessions are streaming the internet to where many hurting and hungry hearts are waiting; who would never have made it into a church building in the first place.
Families are experiencing conflict, which naturally arises when confined indoors together. And as these things surface, it has forced conversations to happen that would have normally taken months to present, hidden amongst the busyness of life. Honesty, vulnerability, and understanding are coming forth and creating healthier more open relationships; even though the process might be painful. Kids are spending more time with their parents, giving the opportunity to build memories that will be treasured for years to come.
And the list goes on, there are endless possibilities in which this disruption is creating beauty and goodness in ways we did not expect.
One of my favourite words in the Bible is the word ‘Selah’. This is a musical direction in the book of Psalms which means; to pause, to reflect, to contemplate before continuing. The Psalms were traditionally sung, and often this was an instruction for voices to pause while the music continued, giving a moment to listen.
As COVID-19 continues to sweep the globe we have corporately been forced to stop and take a ‘Selah’. We are in essence on a global time-out! Our once bustling global community has halted with brakes screeching. Many who have spent their lives running on the treadmills of busyness and noise have stopped. For the first time they are recognising the music that was playing all along. Even if this is the only thing you do – listen deeply! Go out on your short daily walk and be present! Listen to the birds – no one told them to stop singing because of the pandemic! Even in this very real struggle there is beauty to be experienced – so don’t miss out. There is deep pain and sorrow, but also joy that feels all the sweeter in a time of struggle.
Follow the divine in the disruption. You may be surprised what beauty you find there.