For the first time in 7 years, I’ve skipped a couple of monthly posts. I haven’t felt the bubbling up that I normally do, that compels me to explore something about faith in my life. Although I’ve tried to do what I normally do, keeping a rhythm of prayer, in meeting with the community of faith as I can, in looking for inspiration and God’s voice, I am left with a sense of nothing to say. Maybe I’m not alone in that.
Maybe it’s no accident that the lack of blog posts has corresponded almost exactly to addition of a dog to the household. We’ve never had one before, so it is a steep learning curve, changing our patterns and figuring out how we train Cassie to be more Turner-like. (In most respects she fits the mould well: fond of food and walks and people. In others, like that noisy barking and sometimes that annoying and slightly aggressive behaviour towards other dogs, she has a lot to learn.)
Dogs and other pets are, I think, supposed to help us to live in the present. Cassie forgets everything else if she even gets a whiff of a packet of cheese being opened. She seems to mostly just enjoy being alive each day.
But is it possible to get an overdose of too much ‘being present’? In spiritual life, we are often advised to try to live in the moment as a way of becoming aware of God’s presence and reducing anxiety. It’s one of the reasons to go on a retreat; to strip away the distractions and worries of normal life and to ‘just be’. In the past I’ve found retreats and silent prayer amazing in the contrast to my normal life; time away and moments of just becoming aware of the nearness of God’s loving and awesome presence.
So what to make of these current days that force us into a state of semi-presence, unable to prepare much for the future? Lockdown was a more extreme version of our current state but there is still a sense of not knowing what the next weeks and months will bring, and of bracing ourselves for things beyond our control. I’ve had lots of ideas over the last 6 months, but most have had to be set to one side. Maybe my imagination is tired, or my creative impulses thrive on more light of day than they are currently able to see.
In these times of living one day to the next, how do we do that well? I’m learning that students still turn up for outdoor coffee in the pouring rain, drawn and open to connect with others. I’m learning that when groups are good, they’ll continue to be able to provide support through screens and from a distance- even if you don’t provide them with cake. And maybe, because we are all aware of the limitations that are forcing us to live day-to-day, the openness of others in these days has been noticeable.
I may not like this extended time of living in the present, but I guess we always have to start where we are. This is where we are. God is here.