‘Stay home, stay safe…. It’s a simple message which makes its point very clearly. And over eight weeks, we became used to the idea. No trips out except for essentials; no family gatherings; no parties – we even found socially-distanced ways to handle VE Day. Many found the restrictions irksome, but at least we knew where we were.
Now the message has changed: stay alert, stay safe. Reactions have been mixed. Though we welcome the greater freedom, many are confused by the wider range of possibilities. Which of our family can we visit, where, when, and for how long? Are we convinced that there are adequate safeguards in place for those who return to work? And how are they to travel to the work-place? Should we allow our children to go back to school, and should we expect this of their teachers? We are asked to make decisions and take responsibility, and it’s a big ask in an unfamiliar world reshaped by the virus.
Jesus offers us choices and freedom about how we are to live our life. That can also feel scary at times, as we battle with competing options and peer into an uncertain future. How do I make best use of the gifts God has given me? What is the right way to help this person? What should I say to support someone through trouble? What does love look like in these circumstances? Sometimes we long for the security of clear rules that tell us where we are.
Yet we shouldn’t forget that life under the clear rules of full lockdown was, for many, far too restricted. Freedom gives us the space to be more fully who we are meant to be, even in a world that is destabilised and unfamiliar. And one of the great promises of our faith is that Jesus walks with us, so that we share God’s strength and know God’s guidance. We are not alone – ‘remember’, says Jesus, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matt.28:20). So we move on, day by day, exploring this strange new world, with Jesus at our side.