Living under the shadow of uncertainty
It seems almost unbelievable that COVID-19 is still very much at the forefront of our minds. As I write today the legal restrictions have been lifted only to be replaced by voluntary restrictions which are not legally enforceable. Opinions are divided on whether we should be cautious and carry on wearing masks and keeping our distance or at the other extreme we should just get on with our daily lives. I guess many people are somewhere in between these two poles. What is still very clear, infection numbers are still rising sharply, it is still very hard to predict the shape of the peak. I keep looking for some sign the rapid rise is slowing and we are reaching the plateau. Even when we reach the peak we have no idea how long we will be at those high numbers, it could be a broad plateau rather than a sharp peak.
In my early twenty’s, I used to enjoy hillwalking. I spent several holidays in Scotland always looking to climb new Munros. Sir Hugh Munro catalogued mountains over 3000ft in Scotland in 1891. There are an amazing 282 Munros in Scotland. Munro bagging is collecting as many of these mountains as you can, there many people who have climbed them all. The record is an unbelievable 39 days 9 hours and 6 minutes! Compare this to just 34 Furth (outside) Munros. There are 6 in England, 15 in Wales and 13 in Ireland. When hillwalking you often see the highest point and assume it is the summit. When you reach that point you realise it is just a false summit and the really hard climb is tucked behind a plateau that was hidden at lower levels. It can be very dispiriting when you realise there is still more climbing to do. It feels the same looking at the infection numbers that are reaching a peak, or is it a false summit?
Amid the gloom of the rising infections are the amazing effects of the vaccination programme on reducing hospital admissions and ultimately deaths. The contrast to the second wave is undeniably different. It is much better than I could ever hope for given that there was a possibility that an effective vaccine might not be found soon or ever. The whole experience reminds us how precarious life can be and there is often false certainty. Yet, amid such great uncertainty, two things stand out for me. Firstly, how amazingly people pull together to help each other and a regaining of a sense of community. Secondly, in the story of the Christian faith, people wander away from God and faith. They often become selfish and blinkered in their outlook. A crisis is a reminder that they have lost their way and need to find a way back to faith. This is a constant battle we all have to face, it is not just a tick in a box never to be thought about again.
Revd. Martin Wood