'Voices' by Christine Newenham
Wednesday 11 March was the last day of what we used to call ‘normality’. It also happened to be my birthday. I had lunch with some friends and dinner at my in-laws. The day before I had a lovely few hours shopping in the city, in and out of shops, not a thought of queues, masks or social distancing.
When news broke around 11am the following day, it seemed the whole country went into a panic. There was a sense of delight for the children collecting all their books and heading home: ‘Yay no school!’ In my naivety I thought: ‘Sure they’ll be back in school for mid may!’
The novelty for us all wore off after a few weeks, and reality hit home hard. This was going to be the ‘new normal’ for far longer than we expected or wanted!
I was used to time alone and structuring my day according to my schedule. However, home schooling two children and planning my day around them exposed how much I value and depend on ‘me time’ - more than I had realised.
It tested my depleting patience and pushed the limits of my grace. I would love to be able to say I spent more time reading God’s Word and sharing that same Spiritual Truth with my children - but I didn’t. Life was more like an endurance exercise, counting down the days until school reopened and ticking off each passing week until things would go back to normal. I longed for the old normal, when I could have time for myself.
Once the children returned to school I thought things would be different. I would be more disciplined and focused. The Christian books I had gathered over the years would be read, and I would enjoy deeper communion with God. I have always had some excuse not to do these things: School drop off and collection; Work commitments; After school activities; Exercise at the Gym; Church responsibilities; House work. Yet when all these stopped because of the pandemic I still had no time! New ‘priorities’ filled my time. It’s a daily struggle. I know listening to God through his word is good for me but I always find other ways to fill my time, other voices to listen to.
This season has only intensified the struggle. Limitations on travel, being laid off from work and not being able to see people, has caused me to disengage and retreat into myself - which is not good for someone who lives alongside depression. I find it hard not being able to meet in person with my church family, who provide me with valuable support and accountability. While Zoom and YouTube can help, it very often compounds the feeling of disengagement. This is now the new me-time, pottering away at home and not having to engage much with the outside world. It feeds my lazy, undisciplined heart, but even more, it leads to guilt and a sense of failure.
That’s why I need to hear the right voice. In the quietness of my own home, when it’s just me and my thoughts, I can so easily listen to my feelings. A voice that whispers to me: I’m not good enough for my husband, my children, my friends; I don’t measure up. But there’s another voice, one who speaks truth and not lies. God’s voice gently beckons me to come to him with all my guilt and failures. Through his word he speaks to me: You’re forgiven; You are accepted; You are loved. I need to listen to who God says I am and not what I feel I am. As one *song writer has put it:
I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know
I would love to say that I have thrived through this pandemic. I can’t. But God is changing me for the good. I pray that I will continue to heed God’s louder voice because I know it is His voice that will, Fill me to the fullest, Give me the greatest satisfaction and joy, and will Drown out my voice telling me I’m not good enough to be called a Follower of Christ.
‘And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.’