Monday, March 30, 2020

Finding Rhythm in Isolation



I spoke on Sunday about how one of the keys to doing this season of isolation well is for us to find new rhythms of life. 
God designed a world which had a set of rhythms built into it. He gave a rhythm to the day with darkness and light, work and rest. A rhythm to the week with Sabbath, a day of rest every week. A rhythm to the year with seasons and festivals. He even gives a rhythm to the years with a Sabbath year every seven years and a Jubilee year every 50 years. Life is designed to be lived with rhythm.

When we think of finding rhythm in isolation there are an interesting group we can look back on called the Desert Fathers and Mothers. They were a group of Christian hermits and monks who lived mainly in the Egyptian desert starting in around the 3rd century AD. The most famous of these was Antony the Great who spent over 80 years in the wilderness, which may help put what we're going through in perspective! One of the many ideas this hugely influential group developed was to have a 'rule of life' which provided a rhythm for how they lived.

Pete Scazzero, he of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality fame, encourages people to develop their own 'rule of life'. He suggests building it around four areas: relationships, prayer, work and rest. I thought it might be helpful to think how we might start to develop our own rule and find our own rhythm in each of these areas.

Relationships
Lots of us are spending much more time that we are used to with the ones we love! That is inevitably going to lead to moments of frustration and conflict. Others are having to be in isolation alone. Some ideas for all of us in navigating this season well include:
  • Get out of bed at a set time, get dressed, have a plan for the day.
  • If you are isolating with other then eat meals together. Use them as an opportunity to talk about how you are all feeling - at our evening meal we do a 'low, high' time where everyone gets to say what was the lowest and highest point of their day. 
  • If you are on your own then why not phone or do a video WhatsApp call with somebody else as you eat. I've heard of people doing afternoon tea, meals and even a virtual trip to the pub this way!
  • Have a weekly family meeting to talk about frustrations and plan the week ahead. In our family one person (a different person each day!) is allocated to do all the jobs including cooking, emptying the dishwasher and making the drinks that day.
  • Take time to exercise. Catrina and I have started running together which has been a lot of fun. On Sunday you may have seen our family doing morning exercises with Joe Wicks. Use your daily time outside (if you're able to do that) to go for a walk. 
  • Connect with those outside your home. Wherever possible rather than sending emails or texts I've been phoning or doing WhatsApp video calls with people to check how they are. If you're feeling lonely or anxious don't wait for somebody else to contact you but phone a friend and initiate contact.
  • If you have the technology then join a weekly zoom based small group if you're not already in one. I am hearing more and more people finding small group community 
Prayer
  • This season is going to require a bigger prayer life than we have previously had.
  • Take time to be thankful for the simple things. Food, toilet rolls, family, friends and community. 
  • Have regular times to connect with God in prayer. Two resources I know people have found helpful are Lectio 365 from 24/7 prayer and my prayercast.
  • Have a daily scripture reading plan. I'm working my way through the Wildfires Lent devotionals. The YouVersion Bible app has numerous excellent reading plans. 
  • Surround yourself with worship using Spotify and YouTube and be a worshipper. 
  • Make time every Sunday to watch our live stream at 9.30am, and for children to engage with Kerith Kids TV at 9am. Our youth also have Instagram prayer times at 5pm from Monday to Thursday and a virtual gathering at 7pm on a Friday. 
Work

Some of us have been busier than ever over the past few weeks as we adapt to the new reality. Others suddenly find they have very little to do and all day to do it in. Both of these can be a challenge.
  • If you are having to work from home have set times when you start and stop work, and if possible have a set place where you do your work which is different to the place where you relax. Let others know when you are working. 
  • If you are trying to both do your job at the same time as caring for and attempting to educate children be kind to yourself and to them. It probably isn't realistic to expect to be as productive as you'd normally be at the same time as giving the most entertaining and educational time they've ever had! Be realistic and don't be put under pressure by the instagram stories of others who seem to have it all sorted (they haven't). 
  • If you are working outside your home then first of all please do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Try not to let work totally dominate your life but where possible still make time to rest and care for yourself as you look to serve others. 
  • If for whatever reason you don't have work to do then find time to serve others. That starts if there are others in your home with serving them. After that you could set aside time every day to pray for others, to phone round people you know who may be vulnerable, volunteer outside your how if that is safe for you to do. If you can't leave home for whatever reason please don't feel guilty about that, do what you can and trust God to do the rest. 
Rest
  • Make time every day to rest. Get away from your devices and do something that refreshes you. That might be reading a book, doing a jigsaw puzzle (we've just started on a 1,000 piece puzzle), playing an instrument or catching up on a box set. 
  • Don't spend all day watching the news and continuously checking for updates. That will just lead to anxiety and worry. I've taken to checking the news in the morning after I've prayed and then at 5pm when the latest government update is given. Other than that I've got it turned off. 
  • We are continuing to try and have a Sabbath every week, a 24 hour period where we stop doing anything that looks like work, connect with God, connect with others and rest. I'm always amazed how tired I can be at the start of that 24 hours and how refreshed I am by the end. 
  • Be kind to yourself. We are all doing our best in very trying circumstances. 
I do believe that one of the things God wants to do in this season is to teach us a new set of rhythms. To show us a simpler life where we have a different set of priorities. That we will be changed for the good by what at the moment feels so hard. In the words of artist Charlie Mackesy, who drew the picture at the start of this blog:

One day we will be free again to roam and turn up at a friend’s house.
To go to cafes, shake hands and hug.
One day we will remember what brought us all together,
and what reminded us of what really matters.
We will chat about the courage of so many.
One day we will be free but different.
Better, kinder, braver.


Blessings,

Simon

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Always gives wise advice