A blog by the Rev Liz Blythe
There have been more than a few times in the last seven weeks that I have felt this way about my kids. They are lovely little creatures of God. Clever and funny, smart and interesting…and Always There! I’m sure there will be those of you who wish you had small children in your house to entertain you just now, to give you a sense of purpose and someone else to care for. I get that, I really do. I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but I would still love a tiny bit of space – mental, physical. More than once I have wished to isolate somewhere else besides my house because I was fed up with the tedium of extra laundry, extra food prep, extra cleaning, extra whining. But even as I am so tired of not being able to be apart, I realised today that I am very lonely.
We’re all doing this together, right? We’re staying home and standing in grocery store lines and walking 2m apart. But, unlike other common endeavour in which I’ve participated, we aren’t, most of us, sweating alongside one another. We’re doing this hard work in our own homes with little of the camaraderie we might experience in a workplace or a church or a sports club.
It reminds me of my trek to Machu Piccu in 2007. On a whim, I booked a trip to see Peru by local transit and a trek to Machu Piccu. I booked late in the game and had I been inclined to train, I hadn’t left myself much time, but as it was, I didn’t train at all. I was born and lived most of my life around sea level. On the first day of the trek on the Salkantay – a trail longer and higher than the more common Inca Trail – I thought my lungs would shred into ribbons. We were only going from 12,000 feet to 15,000 feet, we were told. This was the prep day for the following day’s summit at 16,500 feet above sea level. In 5 days we covered 60 miles (10 by truck the rest on foot), but the first day I only did three feet. That’s all I could see. It was me and the incline three feet at a time. I can make it to that rock. I’ve made it. Now I can make it to that rock. I’ve made it. I can make it to that rock…and on and on for hours. I was absolutely alone. Other people were with me, but the challenge I faced was my own, and I felt it. Aching in my legs, my lungs, and my soul. Always the last to the resting spots, I had the least time to catch my breath and recover.
I think of those mountain peaks when I think of Psalm 139, as well as the valley of my soul. I remember the darkness of waking in my sleeping bag in my own little tent gasping for air all night because at that great height my lowland lungs could barely function at rest. I thought, for sure, the darkness would cover me.
“If I say, ‘surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night.’
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day…” (v11-12)
Though I felt the desolation of my solitude and the weakness of my body, I know that God was with me, not measuring my weakness but cradling it.
So we find ourselves on a trek, and we cannot see the end of it. Perhaps Monday some restrictions will be lifted…perhaps not…or perhaps they will be lifted for some, but not others. It feels a long, lonesome road (even if the kids are asking for a snack every 5 minutes), but God knows the loneliness of our hearts, the struggle of our souls and rather than dismiss them, God embraces us, “lays a hand upon us,” and calls us “wonderful.” (v 5, 14). So we can make this journey, alone but together – with one another and with God.
Meanwhile, you can imagine the breeze blowing across the mountain peak, and the rivers trickle beginning high on the mountain side and be receive the peace of God.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.