Written by Peter Crutchley.
This is going to be about my experience of “life in lockdown”, but I just want to begin with a thank you.
In late 2018 when I first contacted CFC Holywood via email, I thought I was signing up to a Connect Group! But then I got a msg from Gibbo telling me that the church was relaunching and he invited me to a social gathering on a Sunday afternoon that December. I was a little nervous as I attended it, because I didn’t know anyone in the church. But Gibbo and the folks there were so welcoming and friendly towards me and I felt immediately at ease. From the first Sunday of CFC Holywood’s relaunch last year, I’ve felt very much a part of our church family, and the kindness shown to me from Linda and all the Welcome team, along with everyone in the church, has meant so much to me. On the mission trip to Guatemala that I was a part of at the end of January this year with the charity World Orphans – I was overwhelmed by the prayerful and practical love and support I received from you all. Thank you so much for all of that.
In our Connect Group, a number of people have recently shared personal stories about their lives – they have been so brave and honest in doing so, and it has really helped us get to know each other better, and on a deeper level. I’ve loved it. The hope with these blog posts is that they will help us as a church family get to know each other better and grow even closer together. Also, it may hopefully help folks who are going through times of real struggle at the minute to know that there are many of us who can relate to you and who would be delighted to pray with and for you, and who you can trust to share your concerns with, if you ever wish to. Hopefully these stories will be a source of encouragement for us all. Honesty will be a big part of these posts, so I will be honest about how I’ve been finding lockdown.
When I first heard we were going into lockdown I felt huge concern for key workers who were going to be risking their lives for us on a daily basis. I also felt a deep sense of dread at the prospect of being on my own in the house everyday for the foreseeable future – alone with my thoughts. I’m often not great when I spend a lot of time by myself, and when I don’t have structure – I don’t look after myself well at all and can get quite anxious, and past regrets, hurts and loss come flowing to the surface and can be overwhelming at times. I also felt guilty that so many folks were risking their lives while I was able to sit at home.
As the weeks have gone on, although these thoughts have continued to come to the surface at times and I’ve had some very dark days, I have also often found real hope and joy. I’m so thankful for the many blessings I have received. I am thankful as always that in spite of all the uncertainty in life and in the world at the minute – I can rest sure in the knowledge that Jesus is still on the throne and trust completely in His future grace. I have felt His presence in dark days and light days and that has helped me immensely when I’m in the house – knowing that our great God is with me. I’m so thankful for my family and friends, and for zoom chats! I’ve also got to spend a lot of time with my mum in recent weeks, which has been class (though mum may feel differently!?).
I have found that although we’ve obviously physically been apart – there are a number of people I’ve got to know better during lockdown, as I think folks are just being honest with each other. We were saying in our Connect Group last Wednesday night how just with the set-up of Zoom it can feel less daunting to be totally honest with the group about how you’re doing, than it might be in person. I don’t want to embarrass them, but Becky and Dave Atkinson have been so welcoming to me at Connect Group and have been such encouragers for us.
I’m really thankful to still have a job and am very conscious that many folks are less fortunate, and many are currently fearful about their short and long-term futures. I hope we’re all praying for and supporting those who are in that position.
I have always loved hearing people’s stories, and sharing stories – which this blog will be all about. That’s why I became a journalist, and I’m so grateful that I’m able to work at the moment (from home) and do a job I love, and currently am working on a BBC project sharing young people’s experiences of life in lockdown. I’ve been blown away by the creativity so many young people have shown during this time, but I’m also acutely aware that many of them are feeling uncertain about the future, for many reasons, and they need our prayers.
Also, I’m in regular contact with my friends at World Orphans and with folks in Guatemala. The situation in Guatemala, like so many countries, is really tough at the minute. Not just with the coronavirus obviously, but with the economic situation as a result of the lockdown restrictions. Poverty was a huge problem there already, but now many people who rely on being able to sell products or food outside have not been allowed to do that. So volunteers and staff at World Orphans are risking their own health to bring children and families essential food parcels, and are making face masks and distributing them to those in need. I’m humbled by what these people are doing to help and serve others and how they’re sharing the love of Jesus in such a practical way. Please pray for all these folks connected with World Orphans and for the people of Guatemala. I hope to return there as soon as possible.
So, like lots of us, my lockdown experience has had ups and downs, but it has brought real healing and restoration in many aspects of my life. Also, because they are aware of some of the struggles I’ve experienced over the years, and that I’m open about my many flaws, various friends of mine have reached out to me, told me they’re struggling and shared a lot with me. I think often we just like to know we have people who care about us and who are happy to listen and to support us any way they can.
Is there no balm in Gilead? The answer of course is that there is. Jesus continues to heal and restore. And on a practical level, what a joy it will be when we can again break bread together in person, watch a football match with our mates who support other teams and take the hand out of them (in love of course!) when your team wins, and when we can sit in our favourite restaurant again and eat a steak the way it was meant to be cooked! I think we all now appreciate the little things more – I pure loved getting back to Portballintrae for a walk (hence the photo above). But for now – please be assured that you are not alone, and we would love to support you in any way we can. As Gibbo has been reminding us when speaking about Nehemiah – having a strong team, built on solid foundations, is vital. We have a strong team in CFC Holywood, and our church family will be an even stronger team for this experience.
If you have stayed awake and continued reading my thoughts to this point – fair play, and I salute you for that!! Thank you for reading my journey. I just want to end with a little encouragement.
No matter how you are feeling right now, I hope these words of Jeremiah from Lamentations 3 will encourage you: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”