After the banking crisis the popular slogan became “Keep calm and carry on.” After what has happened in the last week or two (if you include the dreadful news of the massacre in Florida and the murder of Jo Cox, as well as the result of the EU Referendum) I found myself on Friday morning in the garden at 5.30am saying, “Keep calm and pray.” But actually, of course, that is the wrong way round. It should be, “Pray and keep calm.” That is what I have been trying to do.
However, it has not been as simple as that. My head has tried to be reasonable. I have looked at this incident within my limited knowledge and understanding of world history. I have seen how like a pack of cards, one wrong decision, very often made at the time with the best of motives, has led to another and so on, to the state we are in now. Most importantly, I have turned to the words of Jesus about not worrying. I even wrote a long email to one of my sons on Friday, quoting scripture at him, which upon consideration was possibly not the most helpful thing to do. But I was trying to reach out to comfort him – because I needed comforting.
I have used all of these methods to be reasonable and sensible – and I have had indigestion for two days. My head hasn’t the power to over-rule my emotions. Using my faith to paper over the cracks of pain doesn’t work. God wants me to face the truth of what I am feeling, what my “gut” is telling me; and my gut is telling me that I am bereaved. I did not expect this reaction.
I do not feel anxious about money or “the future” for some reason. Probably because what will be will be and somehow we will survive. What I feel is deeply sad, as if I have lost dear friends. I am bereaved. I realise now that when I went abroad in Europe I shared something with others – we were connected – we were family, even if distant cousins. That will no longer be the case. Now I will be a stranger when I go to France or Italy. But worse, much worse than this, is that Scotland, the ancestral home of all my relations on my maternal grandmother’s side going back generations and many on my father’s side, too, may be lost to us. It is faintly possible that even Ireland will become a place in which I need a passport.
So I come to this morning and owning this pain and, as I have been taught, I ask myself, “where is the gift in this experience?” What is God trying to give me? First, I really need to see clearly how disenfranchised and powerless my brothers and sisters in this country have been feeling and how clearly these areas have been delineated: north as opposed to south (in England), town as opposed to rural, haves (those who feel they have some power) as opposed to have nots (those who feel not listened to, voiceless or marginalised). Secondly, my feelings tell me that I am in relationship with those beyond our borders. I see how much I have valued this even as it is taken away. Lastly, and most importantly, this is as much about how we learn to be “we” and not “them and us.” “We”, when we see that we are brother and sister to the streams of refugees who look to Europe; “we”, when we look at our shared financial problems; “we”, when it comes to care of our environment; “we”, when we celebrate the shared history of these islands we call home. In Christ we never find our identity by being over and against other people – that is the false way. We find our identity in our commonality with others. But this means listening to their pain, there sense of being disenfranchised, and trying to do what we can to change things.