When you’re strolling through a lush forest, striding over a majestic mountain top or splashing along a beautiful beach with the waves lapping around your feet and the wind in your hair, it’s easy to feel at peace with the world, close to God and amazed at the beauty of his creation.
But what about the ordinary days when nature feels remote and, at best, all you can see is a bit of greenery outside the office window? Or it rains all week and you barely set foot outdoors? Or, worst of all, a pandemic sweeps around the world, and you are ordered to stay at home?
The Covid lockdowns were necessary, of course. In those scary, early days when everything had been turned upside down, it was easy to become overwhelmed with worry – for ourselves, our loved ones near and far, and the state of the world. But God used those periods of severe restrictions to reveal himself to me in new ways.
Outdoor exercise was limited to an hour at a time and a one-kilometre radius that stopped at the edge of our nearest woods. So I had to make do with the grounds of our apartment complex, and the patches of green space amidst the concrete of our city suburb.
But God reminded me that peace and joy can be found by living in the present and being grateful for what I have. As I was forced to work at home, my daily walks became an early-morning leg-stretch round our grounds, sparing me from filling in an official form each time stating my reason for being out, in case I ran into a police officer. Sometimes I even did the rounds twice. In the silence of the early morning, with almost no traffic noise, birdsong filled the air in a way I had never noticed before. I recalled the words of Jesus telling his disciples not to be afraid. He assured me that he would take care of my elderly, vulnerable mum. That I could lay all my worries and burdens at his feet (confession: this is going to be a life-long challenge). That whaever the future held, in this eerie, uncharted territory of Covid-19, he would always be with me.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
The weather in spring 2020 was glorious, and the unattended town squares and green patches were invaded by brightly coloured flowers which in normal times would probably have been considered weeds. So I even found a use for a camera, and capturing beauty amidst the concrete gave me a new way to live in the moment (with an eye on the time to avoid risking a fine for being out too long) and find joy in such simple everyday blessings.
When the lockdown restrictions eased and I was able to return to the office, I found that my daily walk there and back had changed too. I noticed the wild flowers that came and went, and saw how the light and the clouds were never the same two days running. I regretted the gradual return of traffic beginning to drown out the birds once again. But the biggest change was that I kept up my new habit of conversing with God as I walked, committing to him the day’s events and the people I would encounter.
Time and again, when I have faced a tricky or stressful situation at the office and lifted it up to him on my way in, he has provided someone to give me expert advice, take on an urgent job, or shift a deadline to avert a crisis. On days like that I walk home in the evening praising him for lifting the burden and thanking him for showing his love for me in such tangible ways. And that, my friends, is why I have felt inspired to start this blog!