I got locked in a bathroom once. A group of my Uni friends and I had just started a movie marathon; the plan being to watch all the Die Hard films back-to-back (the kind of plan that only appeals to students). I’d dashed to the upstairs toilet during the opening credits, and on the way back, found half the lock mechanism came off in my hand, whilst the other landed with a thunk on the floor beyond the door. The film had already started blaring through the unnecessarily powerful speakers we’d rigged up specially for the purpose. After 15 minutes or so it became clear that my absence had not been noticed. Realising I might end up stuck there anywhere between 3 and 10 hours, I stomped and hollered myself hoarse. Nothing. Time went by. My predicament began to appear to me existential in nature. Eventually I worked out that if I knelt on the sink I could stick my head out of a narrow window. After a long wait a dog walker went by and I appealed loudly to him for mercy. Suspicion gave way to pity, and he rang the front doorbell before pointing me out to my surprised friends. They piled out onto the driveway and looked up at me, laughing.
It occurs to me there are some narrative parallels to our current situation: the sudden, unexpected, ‘thunk’ of a crisis; the dawning realisation that this could be a bigger problem than first thought; the disappointed plans, the isolation and separation from friends, and yes – the surprising kindness of strangers. But most of all: that feeling of being trapped.
‘Lockdown’ is a heavy, claustrophobic kind of word isn’t it? And one well suited to the reality of the constrictions we’ve experienced over the last few months. Lockdown has meant having to operate for a prolonged period outside our usual comfort zones; disoriented in a world grown threatening. The inner tinnitus of anxiety has exacted a low-level but constant tax on our emotional reserves, whilst we’ve lacked many of the resources that usually replenish our souls – touch, embrace, presence, communion.
Though it’s a comfort now that lockdown has begun to ease, the long and gradual climb seems more gruelling than the short and sudden ‘thunk’ with which it began. And there’s the awareness of course that as the floodwaters of Covid-19 recede, the landscape might turn out to be very different to how it was before – economically, socially, culturally, politically. Some of the deliverance we seek may come through governmental measures, test and trace procedures, medical developments etc. But the new awareness of our profound vulnerability as humans reminds us that many of the deepest needs of our soul can only come from beyond it. And so we kneel on the sink, we holler through the small window of prayer. And as we do so, an answering help begins to free-up our inner lockdown, and we discover a different kind of peace that can only come from God.
Revd Phil Durrant
Minister, Kidlington Baptist Church