Bishop Lee reflects on how God has been at work during the lockdown.
My wife, Liz, always fills her car with fuel well before the warning light comes on. I hardly ever do this, and occasionally have been down to the last dregs before managing to find the brand I use at a reasonable price.
By the beginning of January, I was conscious of how low my tank had become in ministering as a Bishop over recent years. The retirement of Bishop Mike and then Archdeacon Christine a year later, heralded a season of regular transitions of people who held significant roles in the diocese. This led to some great opportunities for others to take or try out positions of greater responsibility, and with Bishop Viv’s arrival, the appointment of very gifted members of our Senior Staff.
But this long season had taken its toll, and I for one realised I was running on fumes as far as creative energy and fresh thinking were concerned. The Extended Ministerial Development Leave I was due to commence in February could not come soon enough. It would start with a month in North Carolina as a Visiting Scholar at Duke Divinity School, where I knew I would be nourished and inspired by the staff of a truly world-class faculty.
To use another analogy from the world of motoring, in January 2020 I was aware that my Rev Counter had been constantly near to, or in, the Red zone with only short intervals on tick over. Despite the long-term ‘over-revving’ (excuse the pun) at that time I was also deeply conscious of God’s provision when my cupboard felt bare. On several occasions I found myself receiving what felt like manna from heaven for speaking engagements when all I felt I had to offer was thin gruel. Yet I also appreciated this was a gift for a short while – a grace from God to carry me to a place of reflection and refuelling, of still waters and pastures green.
The accident carried me to a very different environment, one which I tried hard to embrace as a fallow season with time for recovery. There certainly were elements of this but, as I have written elsewhere, I eventually understood and experienced it as a journey through wilderness.
For some, Covid- 19 has offered space and time for slowing down, taking stock, an opportunity to recover and attend to things which have long been waiting for attention. But for others, the pandemic has led to a hatful of new demands and requirements. It has drained physical, emotional, and mental resources. Many will have found the grace of God in such testing circumstances, just as I did when the tank was empty. But again, as in my case, the receipt of God’s grace does not mean we need do nothing. The gift reminds us God is with us and for us, even in the most testing times.
As I think about it now, that is probably why I could say from the heart, lying on the tarmac with the paramedics in attendance, that God will manage to use this for good. It is in the writing of these reflections that I have fully been able to make the connection. My hope and trust is that they will speak to others wondering where God might be at work, especially when feeling exhausted or surrounded by the most unpromising of circumstances.
I will be writing next about the place that journalling has had in engaging spiritual energy for me. The piece is called ‘Seeing more clearly’.