I woke up this morning with a shofar echoing in the neighbourhood. I’ve wondered how Easter would be like during lockdown. Usually we spend Easter with family, going to church and eating yummy food. Almost like Christmas. This year, Easter weekend would fall on day 14 to 16 of our South African lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19. I haven’t been able to write in a while, because mostly I was just filling up my time as much as I could to not spend too much “down-time” contemplating the effects of Covid-19 on life as I know it… But today, that changed. Drastically.
This must have been one of the best Easter weekends I have ever had. I missed my family… Intensely. I missed lifting my hands with my church family, worshiping and breaking bread with them. But there was something that shifted in my Spirit today. Lockdown has forced most of us to get rid of the noise around us. It has forced me, personally, to deal with deep questions, have real conversations, and just generally reevaluate my life. Some of us are forced to break old habits, build new routines, reconnect with friends and family… And deal with fears we didn’t even know we had. Fear of loss. Fear of the unknown. Fear of falling ill. Fear of losing someone dear. Fear of lack. I think all of these fears started crowding my thoughts ever since President Ramaphosa announced the 21 day lockdown that Monday evening. By the way… Can we just take a moment and thank God for appointing him as our president for such a time as this? I am astounded at his leadership, compassion and just genuine interest in the lives of all South Africans. Endless respect and gratitude for this man.
I don’t know about anyone who has not been dealing with some underlying fears in the past few weeks. Being confronted with the smell of clean alcohol, face masks and people gasping when you accidentally cough into your elbow, is no picnic for any human. There has been a constant atmosphere of fear. Atmosfear. I couldn’t sleep most nights… Dreading bedtime, and the nightmares that waited for me to dream up. I was almost jealous of those people who are lucky enough to work for a salary… Not carrying the weight of a business which might not show an income for the next few months. Those people who can spend lockdown kicking back, adding things to their online shopping carts as they read a book they’ve wanted to, but never had the time… Or painting, redecorating, and just keeping themselves busy. I have to be honest. I had a heavy burden weighing me down every time I thought about the rest of the year, and looking at my bank account. I sometimes felt my mind numbing me to not think in that direction.
I have never struggled to believe in God. I have never questioned His existence. And this uncertainty only drove me to spend more time in His Word. Praying furiously for answers. Choking up when I start singing “I will sing of the goodness of God”… The truth is He has always been faithful. He has done miracle upon miracle in and through my life. I think the only thing I doubted was if He would do it again.
On day 7 of the lockdown the day came that I dreaded most. Leaving the house. We needed some essentials… Panic buying was not on our list from the start, so we did our grocery shopping as usual before lockdown was announced. So, I got on my big girl boots and stepped outside. It wasn’t great. There was a queue outside the grocery store… Some were wearing masks, some standing one meter away from everyone, some didn’t seem to care. My brain was trying to perceive what will be known as the new normal for the next few weeks… Survival kicked in, and I went around the grocery store, smiling at strangers and singing along to the local radio tune. Like I always did. I spotted all kinds of consumers. The panic buyers were represented fairly well, peeking out from behind a mountain of toilet paper in both their trollies. Then there were the essential buyers, taking just what they need for the next week. Minimalists were also present, although most of them not by choice. This virus is not only infecting people, but also infecting our economy in a way nothing ever has.
I walked out of the store a bit broken. Of course I felt like wanted to dive into a pool of disinfectant until I shrunk like a raisin, but my heart was uneasy. It felt like I stepped into some kind of badly directed disaster film for an hour. As I drove home on the dreadfully empty road, I had to constantly remind myself not to touch my face as the tears started falling. The one day I finally mustered up the will to put on some mascara. Seriously!? Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Mascara is the ultimate punisher of the wells that live beyond a woman’s eyes. It’s been teaching us to suck it in, look up and fan it away for years. What a backstabbing piece of make-up.
As the tears started to fall, I drove past a tree I usually do on my way home. I have admired this tree every day for the past 5 years I’ve lived in this neighbourhood. It carries every season with so much extravagant beauty and grace. But I have to say my favourite colour on it, is Autumn. The deep red, warm orange and traces of yellow touching the leaves to form a gorgeous wash of autumn colours, with the dark greens of summer still hanging on for dear life. As I passed this tree, I was stunned. Somehow between all the crazy, I had completely forgotten that it was Autumn. Fellow South Africans would agree, that this is the first real Autumn we have had for years. Maybe that’s why I didn’t realise?
I stopped the car. Right in the middle of the road. (Thank you lockdown) Got out of my car. Breathed the fresh, cool air and stood in awe of this tree. Just for a little while, I could move the topic of Covid-19 out of my head and make space for the beauty being unveiled before me. A police siren sounding far away brought me back to reality. I took a picture, sighed and got back into my disinfected car.
As I drove the last kilometer home, I started thinking about the significance of Autumn. Most people only think of Autumn as the time of the year all the leaves discolour and fall from the trees, and the time it starts to get a wee bit harder to get out of bed in the morning… It has always been one of my favourite seasons. Not just because of the colour and the colder temperatures, but because of the significance of it all. Autumn is a time where death comes to make way for new life. How significant that we celebrate Easter in this time… Where the ultimate sacrifice of death made way for eternal life.
I watched a sermon by Steven Furtick a few years ago where he made a statement that shook me. He said that Jesus was not buried after He died on the cross, He was planted. The ultimate seed. Dying to bring forth new life.
Today the atmosfear was shaken down to make way for His presence. We find ourselves in Autumn all around the world… Things are discolored, shaken, fallen. We hear reports of death all around the globe, in every nation. This virus knows no race, age or gender. But the one thing I know for sure about Autumn, it’s that it is the best time to plant seeds for future growth. It might seem like everything is changing, and that we will be left barren. But Spring will come… And how beautiful the new life will bloom when we plant seeds of hope and faith in a good Father, who is still in control and still good?
This is why this was the best Easter ever. People were forced out of their religious traditions around this day, and all that was left was to pay attention to the true message. To pay attention to His voice. To pay attention to His sacrifice, and the new life He brings. Each time the sound of the shofar filled the air, I found myself back at my favourite tree… Marveling at the wonder of Autumn.