by Will Fletcher.
I write this piece as I begin my sabbatical. Due to the current restrictions and ongoing uncertainty about what the next few months might hold, I have had to scrap part of the plan to travel round the country visiting various cathedrals. Instead, I have broadened the other part of the plan to spend as much time outdoors as possible. This maybe feels a bit of a cliché after countless stories over the last year about the benefit of the outdoors, but after spending so much of this year in front of a computer screen, I’m certainly ready for it.
There are a number of things I hope to do, from walking and gardening, to developing birdwatching skills. However, one of the things I love most in the outdoors is looking at insects and other invertebrates. Maybe it is the little boy within me still wanting to get out and dig in the mud. Maybe there is something about taking time to stop and pay close attention to something that would be so easy to miss. I find them and their often-overlooked world fascinating. In all these activities, what I hope for the most is to make space to be far more attentive to the world as I am living it at this moment, and, in that frame of mind, to be more attentive to God with me.
One of the challenges I find as a minister (though I’m sure this experience isn’t limited to ministers) is that I rarely feel able to live in the present, always thinking of what will be coming up in the future. I get to the autumn and I have to start thinking about Christmas; before the Christmas decorations are down, the thought of Lents studies begins; as I try and journey through Holy Week, I’m also preparing worship for Easter Day – Jesus isn’t crucified yet, but in my mind, he is already raised to new life!
It feels like this last year has sometimes been like that – as a nation (and, indeed, a world) we are always looking ahead. This has been particularly the case since the beginning of the vaccine rollout. We’ve all been starting to wonder when life might start to include some of those aspects we have been longing for. The various roadmaps from the four nations of the UK have come out, and dates start getting put in the diary. Plans begin to be made for May, June, maybe August.
After the horrendous events of the last year, I don’t begrudge anyone looking ahead to a brighter future which involves those people and activities that we have had to do without for so long. However, the danger can be that we spend so much time looking ahead, that we miss life now, miss seeing and experiencing the things that are here for us now, miss encountering God, even.
As the psalmist faced a world in uproar and change, they were encouraged by God to ‘Be still and know that I am God!’ It appears for them that it was in stopping, maybe in being attentive to their present moment, that they could realise that ‘The LORD of hosts is with us.’ (Ps 46:10-11). Equally, when he was addressing the crowd who were clearly worried about their future, Jesus encouraged them to, ‘look at the birds of the air’ and, ‘consider the lilies of the field.’ (Matthew 6:26, 28) It seems that long before the scientists of today, the ability for nature to give us a different perspective on life had been realised.
Therefore, my hope and prayer for us all as we look to move out of lockdowns and restrictions, and as we make plans for what our summer may hold, is that we don’t end up missing the potential for experiencing the joy, life, and presence of God in the here and now.
4 thoughts on “Insects… God in the here and now”
Thank you for the Monday morning flowers, Will! And the beasties that come with them, and with which – as with all creation – we are interdependent.
I am glad that John Simmonds put so much energy into getting sabbaticals off the ground. We can be so wrapped up in the Right and Dutiful that we forget the Bright and Beautiful. And not only ministers!!
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I agree with you about the necessity in ministry to look ahead and plan for events, and your comment about preparing for Christmas and Easter is so true. Therefore I really value my day off, which is the day in the week when I can enjoy the ‘here and now’, and the virtual retreats that I have been on when I can be in the ‘being’ mode rather than the ‘doing’. Tomorrow we have our Distrcit ministers’ retreat from home where we are encouraged to take the whole time away from work, as we would do if we were meeting in person.
Have a wonderful sabbatical.
Enjoy your retreat, Elly!
Thank you for this Will. I’m pleased to hear you perspective on ‘enjoying the here and now’. Last year, during lockdown from April to June, I did a ‘virtual’ walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats(837miles) and, in Christian language, I was truly blessed. I discovered so many wonders of nature in my locality as well as, at a safe distance, sharing with people that I met along the way. I’m grateful that, at 78, I can still do these things and pleased that so many contributed to the various charities that I wanted to work with.