Emerging from ‘our cave’

Susan Edmondson reflects on stepping out into new freedom after Covid restrictions

This article was published in the September to December 2021 issue of Rapport magazine.

Cave picture by Bashkatov  stock.adobe.com

I recently attended a Zoom quiet day focusing on Psalm 57, and I think it resonates with our present situation as we move to a relatively unrestricted life.

David was hiding in a cave, until the disaster passed. He fluctuates between being very pessimistic and low:

I am in the midst of lions …
I was bowed down in distress.

And then quite upbeat:

God vindicates me … He sends from heaven and saves me. 

It’s good to see that he ends up on a very confident and hopeful note at the end:

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

I think we can identify with David – we have been in our caves for a long time, and it has not always been easy to see where God was, or to trust and praise Him.

A few weeks ago I read an article about someone who had coined the term ‘PPSD’ – ‘Post Pandemic Stress Disorder.’ Basically she was saying that during lockdown she had got used to having time to herself, to not having dates in her diary, to enjoying exercise and to creating new routines. And now, suddenly she felt plunged into a new reality where people were asking her to make arrangements to meet, to go out for the meals that had been impossible, and where she had to observe a different dress code! And also she says, ‘we don’t really know if we’re post this pandemic at all. Every reopening looks too good to be true … and part of us is tensed for the next assault. It’s a tiring way to exist.’

I think we can also all identify with that. We have been tired by the constant uncertainty, the need to make all our plans provisional, and now how to encourage our family, friends, congregations and communities in a time when we don’t really know exactly what emerging is going to mean for any of us. We’ve also got quite used to our lockdown life, and its new rhythm and space. We know that many in our society are still vulnerable, and anxious, and yet others are raring to get out and return to whatever may be ‘normal’ post pandemic life.

During the quiet day, I wrote a short meditation which I think fits this context. All of us have caves to which we retreat, maybe looking back over the last 18 months, or even on a daily basis. When I wrote the meditation I thought of it as quite a linear progression, but others said they experienced each cave most days. I hope it speaks to you.

The Cave

This cave contains me.

It is my home, my four walls. Here I have all I need for daily life, for existence, for sustenance, for safety. I have shelter, food, and water.

I can survive here.

This cave comforts me.

It has familiar things – warm rooms, chairs I can relax in, photos of my family, wonderful memories of hospitality and welcome, the sunshine pouring in through the windows.

I can thrive here.

This cave confines me.

It becomes my prison as I perceive danger and dare not step out. I lose human contact and live my life in my head. I hear news from the outside world and my thoughts may be consumed  with fear.

I can lose heart here.

This cave challenges me.

It entices me with a view of the world outside, if I choose to look. There may be risks, but God is there among them. He reminds me the world out there is hurting but promises His hope.

I can take courage here.

This cave changes me.

It is a place where I can hear the beckoning call of God, and the words which say ‘Fear not’. He reassures me of His steadfast love and faithfulness.

I cannot and will not stay here forever.

My heart is ready

I will sing and give you praise.

Amen

Susan Edmondson
Chair, SMC Board and Lee Abbey Council


Posted on 20 August 2021