I have been away in Facebook. A place I used to think a handy space for sharing family photographs and everyday anecdotes. Not a place to be taken seriously. Not a place where one could write a blog and be allowed to. Nor a place where fellowship and support would grow and nurture and feed. How wrong I was.
I posted a few of those “blogs” here.
The Facebook Group I joined had one requirement. That I had received a letter from the UK government back in March of this year advising me to “shield”. Turned out that 3.9% – 2.2 million – of us were sent the same letter. That we were advised because of our underlying conditions to remain in isolation from everyone else. That if we caught the virus it was likely we would suffer significant consequences – like death. That there were insufficient resources within the healthcare system to accommodate high numbers of seriously ill people, so the consequences would be rationing (a word not used) and for us a likely death. The advice was to remain indoors, to not step outside, and to find a sunny window to sit next to. By registering on a website, support would be given to have groceries and medicines delivered to my door if I had no one to do that for me. That is quite a scary letter to get.
A bit like the wages of sin are death – for ever.
I never did all the “advice”. I continued with a twice daily dogwalk keeping well clear of people. But did choose to live in the same house as Mrs Paul in different rooms. So she could come and go without being restricted as I was. That she could live her life as much as normal. We did that for about three months while lockdown took care of the rest. No contact with family or friends. Two holidays cancelled. Family gatherings and birthdays get-togethers cancelled. Even simply touching another human being – all cancelled.
We were not created to live this way. I looked head and saw me reaching a point of “F**K IT!”
That point where “sensible and careful” leaves and “danger and consequences” rush in. So I found a Facebook support group. It grew from a few hundred to 6,000+ in a few weeks. Plenty like me also seeing a dark future.
As with this blog, I soon walked on the edges of “shielding”. Shielding by then had become riddled with self-created rules. Government advice had been taken as gospel by many. Many had not left their houses, apartments, room in a shared house for months. Hadn’t had anyone inside their front door. Doused their groceries in bleach. Quarantined their post for three days. Had red-raw hands from all the washing and sanitising. Had houses that smell of bleach. Fear everyone and everything. Looked out and judged all those “free” of their sacrifice and deprivation. That “we” were suffering day after day for “them”. Became bitter and angry that “they” were living and behaving in ways that meant “we” would be confined for even longer. That “they” were spreading the virus carelessly. Making it more unsafe for “us” to ever come out of “our” homes again. That “we” had sacrificed “our” lives for “them” and this is how “they” repaid “us”.
The parallels between a Corona-free life and a Sin-free life were interesting. The parallels at so many levels are fascinating. Just as I have been told I need to find the right church – I soon needed to find the right support group.
As the numbers grew and things changed, the group changed its name to “Before, During and After Shielding”. I was kicked out when I wrote about “after”. A simple boring cold. Given to me by our grandchildren who had been bouncing it around the family for three weeks. Something we are all familiar with. I wrote with surprise and joy that – for the first time in six months – I had not freaked out – that this was just a cold – so no point getting a test or self-isolating – that this was “normal” – and I was surprised to find that my mindset had “healed” to normal – that for me this a wonderful mile marker on my way back to living with the virus rather than for the virus!
And was publicly lynched. Over that weekend I was howled down. Anything I wrote was drowned out in a toxic baying for blood. That I was killing people with my arrogance. How dare I boast about it. How dare I call myself a shielder (I never did and never will). The “admin team” had had enough. The name of the group was changed to “We will shield again!” and I was chucked out. No warning. No chance to get my belongings (the posts I had written). Just a door slammed shut never to be opened again.
This is a support group run by well meaning people. Just as churches are. Honest opinion? I saw few differences in the structure or dynamics – other than the church does things with that renowned “smile”.
Which left me wondering.
Why so many parallels if God really is what church is all about?