Monday, 31 August 2020
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spring 2020 will long be remembered for the arrival of the corona virus. Suddenly our lives all took a strange frightening new turn as the pandemic started to spread throughout the world. Because we were forced to stay at home in ‘Lockdown’, our cars were left untouched outside our homes. Here is mine, as seen through the blossom of the cherry tree directly opposite my home.
But this photo reminds me that the spring of 2020 will also be remembered for its beauty. During those weeks of warm sunshine it was somehow reassuring to see that Nature was carrying on as usual! Trees and shrubs blossomed, flowers appeared at their given time, all obviously flourishing in the unusually fine weather. Above the silent streets the birds flew busily to and fro, carrying twigs and moss for their nests, or sat singing on rooftops, claiming their territory. Never before had we been aware of such wonderful birdsong.
If you look more closely at the photo of my car, you will see the aerial standing out against the white garage door. Those two – the aerial and the up-and-over door – unfortunately had a violent collision last December. Because the weather had turned icy, I had put the car in the garage, but forgot to unscrew the aerial from its base on the car roof. The next day, when I hurriedly backed the car out, there was a loud crack! The aerial was lying beside the damaged base. As I tried without success to screw it back in, I realised that, alas! I would no longer have radio contact – so, no Classic FM to keep me calm and happy when driving along busy roads.
After examining the damage, my local garage owner told me that unfortunately, in order to restore the radio connection, he would have to take down part of the ceiling inside the car. When he said that this would probably cost about £160, I sadly resigned myself to the situation… I looked out some favourite CDs to accompany me as I drove, and laid the aerial inside the car boot.
In January, during a family “Mammycare” (!) weekend, Bex, my daughter-in-law, took it back out and managed to fix it on to the car roof again, but – unsurprisingly - there was still only silence when I tried to switch on Classic FM or any other radio station.
Then came Lockdown. For over three months the car stood untouched in the driveway while I self-isolated (because of my advanced age!) When at last I plucked up enough courage to drive to the local supermarket, I chose a cheerful CD to encourage myself – but still regretted the loss of Classic FM. That seemed yet another loss in addition to the ones which had already resulted from Covid-19: no family reunions, no church services, no coffee mornings with friends, no choir rehearsals, no playing the cello in the church Praise Band or the piano for a local ladies’ choir. So many precious parts of my life which had given me a sense of identity and of purpose!
Another favourite activity has been dog-walking. After my collie friend Tara moved to Stirlingshire, I was delighted when I was asked to walk Mac, a West Highland terrier, and Mindy, a labradoodle. For ten years I have enjoyed this lovely form of exercise with these two doggy friends.
But two weeks ago, their owner phoned me to say that they will shortly be moving away from the district. So, yet another chapter has ended…
One morning last week, after my usual Bible reading and prayer time, I felt a wave of depression sweep over me as I thought of all the activities which had given me a sense of physical and mental wellbeing. Worst of all, I suddenly felt an unaccustomed emptiness. It was as if the spiritual ‘aerial’, which for over fifty years has connected me with the comforting presence of God’s Holy Spirit, was no longer functioning, leaving me desolate.
As I got out of bed, I remembered these words from Psalm 51:
Create a pure heart in me, O God, and give me a new and steadfast spirit; do not drive me from thy presence or take thy holy spirit from me; revive in me the joy of thy deliverance and grant me a willing spirit to uplift me.
I opened the bedroom curtains. My attention was immediately drawn to my car in the driveway below, and specifically to the aerial on the roof.
Suddenly I was reminded of my shopping expedition a few evenings before. Because I had waited until Sainsbury’s would be quieter, I was already tired when I donned my facemask and began pushing a trolley all round the store. By the time I had piled six bulging bags into the car an hour later I was exhausted. In need of music to revive me for the homeward journey, I decided to replace the current all-too-familiar CD with a new one. I pressed the release button. To my surprise I heard a lovely orchestral piece and saw on the screen the words ‘Classic FM’. “That’s odd! I’m glad we’re reconnected,” I thought - but had to concentrate on my driving, then, back home, on unpacking and storing all the groceries.
Now, as I stared down at the aerial, it was as if the sun had suddenly burst through the dark clouds. I was full of a belated sense of joy and wonder! How could that possibly have happened - that mysterious reconnection? I was ashamed that, preoccupied with practical problems, I had not reacted with amazement and gratitude for this unexpected blessing.
Still happily puzzled, I later asked a few friends if they could think of an explanation. Comments ranged from “Divine providence!” to “You must just have had a loose wire!” Well, maybe the latter is true in more ways than one! But whatever the explanation, I am relieved and very glad that my ‘inner aerial’ seems to be working again…
After another visit to Sainsbury’s, I gratefully switched on Classic FM, and instantly recognised the opening bars of John Rutter’s setting of A Gaelic Blessing. For years I have played this at the end of each rehearsal of the ladies’ choir. Now I sat in my car and joined in singing the lovely words, which I hope will have meaning for you:
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.