These are the strangest of times. As I look out of my lounge window in Hampshire, there is evidence of spring everywhere.
Daffodils, cherry blossom, even blue bells are beginning to push their way out of the ground. The first sand martin and swallow have arrived back from Southern Africa and the chiffchaffs are singing from the hedges and woodlands. Through my window, it appears that all is well in the world. But what about beyond my garden?
We cannot deny the real and devastating impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on lives and livelihoods. Families are losing weak and vulnerable loved ones, and sometimes perfectly healthy members too. People living alone are suddenly without visitors. Business and organisations which rely on daily contact with customers risk losing everything. Perhaps you are one of those people, or most certainly know someone deeply affected by this pandemic.
Yet, across the world, heartwarming stories are surfacing of kindness towards vulnerable people dealing with coronavirus and we really don’t have to look far to spread some kindness ourselves: checking in on others who are self isolating, offering to shop for someone who cannot or contributing to a local food bank, adhering to social distancing rules and being sensitive and present (via phone or other means) to those feeling anxious, worried or lonely.
Children in lockdown across Italy are making banners on their windows that say “andra tutto bene” which means “everything will be alright” and people are singing in solidarity from their balconies to encourage one another. As well as practical action, God’s word, Psalm 23, is a great assurance in this time of difficulty:
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 (NIV Version).
‘Business as usual’ in the short term has come to a grinding halt with people already suffering and sadly, many more in the months and even years ahead. But sooner or later this will end and we will need to ask: What do we want the world to look like when we come out the other side of this pandemic? Suddenly many of us will have more time to reflect on the possibilities of systems and livelihoods that live in harmony with nature rather than against it – and to be involved in that process (through raising our voices, demanding climate action, praying regularly, supporting small charities like A Rocha etc)
For now, the UK church has literally left the building. But with that comes the opportunity for Christ’s body to learn new ways to serve and be present. So, how can we walk through the valley together and help to build something better for when we come out of this dark and uncertain time?
In this new season of spring and in the unknown, let us keep our focus on God so that we are able to see beyond our own garden. Then, as the windows in our own lives get smaller, over the weeks to come, we are able to keep them wide open for both our neighbour and for nature.
This reflection was written by Andy Lester, A Rocha UK’s Head of Conservation for the Wild Christian email, ‘Nature and Hope.’