Life’s been stressful lately. When I think back to the past year or so, there have been very few periods in that year where I haven’t felt slightly panicked or feeling down. A variety of life circumstances has created a cocktail of a low level despondency with the state of things.
So one of my friends suggested I come on a walking weekend run by a group of Nottingham delphs. Now, this was not likely to reduce my stress levels; I am an introvert, but I also hate being lonely. The thought of having to socialise with a group strangers, as lovely as they may be, was a situation that I was likely to find draining and nerve wracking. But, I decided to go along. I’ve been trying to slowly get myself out of my comfort zone, and it was an opportunity to get out of the house.
And I was thoroughly glad I went.
Walking and Peace
Saturday’s walk was 12 miles long. It was a cold day requiring the use of my hat, gloves and an emergency purchase of new walking boots. We had every weather that could have been thrown at us, except rain! But, it was also the first time in a long time that I walked through God’s creation, a creation barely touched my humanity.
Gods creation really is beautiful. I don’t always remember, but when I do, it’s truly amazing. Life gets so busy sometimes; I work in a city, and then just travel home, rarely ever stopping. When I do stop, I stop at home, inside, looking at my phone, iPad or tv.
But this weekend, because I couldn’t look at a screen, or listen to music, it was the first time in a long time that I really took in all of creation. Because it’s not just the sights, the rolling green fields, the sparkling streams and rivers, the snow covered hills in the distance; it’s in the sounds and smells as well. Like bird song! I hadn’t listened to bird song in ages! Or smelled the clean air, so noticeably different from the slightly stale air of a city or town!
It was a wonderful opportunity to remember the words of Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus tells his followers that they needn’t worry about so much because God will provide. He compares us to sparrows and lilies, two beautiful things that God has made, who don’t work, but that Hod provides for. And that we, a people who work together, are so much greater than these. The chapter ends with the following verse:
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:34 NIVUK
The walks and the outdoor breaking of bread were awesome opportunities for remembering this fact. As we sat slowly freezing, we were in the depths of a valley surrounded by sheer hills. It really brought to my mind how insignificant all of my problems were, and indeed how I was; but in spite of my insignificance in the face of these huge hills and valleys, God loves me and cares about my problems. And that brought me some small peace that I’d like to continue to hold onto.
Peace and Friendships
As I mentioned earlier, I am an introvert. But I am also the worst combination of things, an introvert who needs the company of others to be happy. I can be most comfortable around people I know and socialising with them does not require a huge amount of effort. But new people especially require a huge amount of mental energy. Not because I don’t like people, but I am afraid they won’t like me. It’s like one of my previous posts about clothing and masks; I am scared that if people see through me they won’t like me. This means I put up my guard and retreat into myself, donning the armour of being quiet and withdrawn in order to protect myself.
It’s also tiring because I then feel like such a drain on the people I already know. I knew a handful of people going reasonably well, but I have a bad tendency to cling to people I know when I am nervous. But even this makes me nervous because I then worry that my friends will find me annoying when they want to talk to other people.
But again, God was with me teaching me not to sweat this stuff so much. Everyone I had the chance to chat to was lovely, and I’m sure they would all make amazing friends if I plucked up the courage to do more things like this. But one of my favourite moments was just being around this group of people. I like to think I can blend in so people don’t notice me (another defence mechanism), but that just gave me the opportunity to listen to their general chatter. As bad as a lot of humans can be to each other, they were all being so friendly, talking animatedly, doing jigsaws, playing games and telling jokes. It was what I like to call a “mini-Kingdom moment”, tiny moments that make you think “I hope the kingdom is like this”. All of these wonderful people gathered together, all with the purpose of uplifting each other, helping each other, loving each other. If only the rest of life was like this.
I’ve been a bit low this week. I always tend to get that way after weekends as good as that one. Driving back into the cities, the green giving way to cold, unfeeling grey, the return to drudgery after a weekend of purpose, it can’t help make me feel a little sad for a few days. But it serves to remind me that the sadness of this life is only temporary, and that there may be a new life to come, hopefully soon. But in the meantime, I hope God has many more weekends like this one planned for me, because that will help me get there.