I woke up this morning, my head aching from a neck that seems to have become more stiff and rigid as the Covid pandemic has progressed. I felt a cry bellow out of me: No! Enough! I can’t do this anymore! I want the fear to go, the helplessness, the endless worry of what about tomorrow. Right now there is no tomorrow, there is only today.
I am in isolation again. A part of me rejoiced as I thankfully accepted that all the entries in my diary for the next week could be crossed out. I didn’t realise how tired I am.
We talk so glibly about what a tough season this has been, but we jolly along regardless, making the best of each day, pretending we are ‘back to normal’.
When I was a child I went to boarding school in Pretoria, a long haul in 1965 from my home in Mbabane. It took us most of the day, rattling over corrugations, negotiating bends and rises through the dust. Or in summer slithering through the mist, the person in the front passenger seat given the honour of keeping the windscreen free of blinding condensation as the wipers clacked rhythmically at one speed only.
The roads improved until my final year we made it in under 5 hours, giving us a few more precious moments at home. Later I lived in Johannesburg for a couple of years, trying to get some qualification that would equip me for life. No matter from where, the journey home was always exciting, the flat windswept fields of the Highveld gradually giving way to hillocks and at last we would round a corner and there would be the mountains of home, victoriously etched against the sky, the valleys boundless and intriguing. We would sit up, fiddle for passports, look out eagerly for the first sign of Ngwenya.
And it never came. We would crest one hill after another and no sign of home. The evening journeys when we left Johannesburg after work were the most fraught, the 10pm border closing deadline ominous.
This pandemic is similar. We no sooner think we are at the end of it, than another wave rises up in seemingly unending progression. Now, exhausted by the restrictions, constrictions, and anxiety of the past eighteen months, we have to deal with the lunacy of anti-vaxxers waging hysterical warfare that sounds more like galactic dystopian fiction. If only it weren’t so real we could treat it as such.
The Christian mongers are among the worst. Heaven knows where they find the stuff – I have read the bible from cover to cover three times, study it daily, and have never come across what they proclaim it to reveal. The issue, of course, is they don’t read for themselves. They listen to self-proclaimed scholars and prophets who sprout anything, it seems, to gain notoriety. I pity many of them when that great book is opened and they are asked to give account of their work, possibly even explain why they felt it necessary to help others die, no matter how well-meaning they may think they are.
For me, when I am tired like this, my heart turns to one of two places: Kruger or similar bush and the wide expanse of what I call The Beach in Mozambique. The one offers balance in the form of the natural scheme of things, the other refreshing waters. In both places I am made aware of the enormity of God, the expanse of His heaven encompassing in unrivalled majesty. I am a star gazer and as I look heavenward in places where light pollution is minimal I am awed by the celestial canvas spread out over us.
It is here that I find a measure of peace, where some order returns, I feel my diaphragm release, my shoulders drop, and I can breathe again. It is here that I can exclaim: My God, how great thou truly art! God is so big, I am so small, yet He honours me with His love and His presence, His reassurance when I feel lost and desperate.
In Isaiah 55 v1 the invitation is given out: Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.
Later Jesus said, to a woman, let us note, in John 4 v14: … whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
A little later, still in the gospel of John 7 v 37, Jesus cries out to the crowd: If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
This morning as I was praying, seeking that peace for which there is no understanding, I saw a picture of the sea, with a cobbled beach. The stones were all round and smooth, the light playing over them, revealing hidden depths of colour. I had a sudden glimpse of what they were like when they were formed: jagged, black lumps of hardened lava. It has taken centuries of washing and bumping and grinding to make them rounded and beautiful.
Water does it for me. I think that is why I am so attracted to the art of Laurel Holmes – her fascination with water and her ability to portray its movement and depth with such subtle emotion resonates deeply within my soul. I love the rock pools that border the beach, waterfalls in my home country of Swaziland, some crashing abundantly into potholes, others gently moulding the land to their passage. Others still without grandeur flowing purposefully to wherever, nurturing those whose land they share.
I was at one such spot recently and the movement of the water over a large flat rock drew me like a magnet. The texture of soft over hard and implacable, clarity and translucence over opaque solidity. The silence of a Sunday morning in the country, the indolence of cows, the nervous fiddling of donkeys, the intention of a Malachite Kingfisher, soothed.
So I felt the call of the Holy Spirit to linger in that place a while, let the rhythm of the waves, the jostling of the stones, the light, the birdcall restore my sense of well-being, strengthen me to face this day and the ones that will follow.
Then the scriptures of the day began arising, one in particular a clarion call to get over myself from a friend: Isaiah 40 v 31: But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Won’t you join me in this place of rest where the waters of life wash over you, restore you, make you whole? Together we are so much better than when we are one.