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Alone With None But Thee, O God: My Experience Of Shielding

Author: Maureen Roche

Picture: pxfuel

Alone With None But Thee, O God: My Experience Of Shielding

Retired teacher Maureen Roche shares her rollercoaster experience of shielding, isolation and God's faithfulness during the first lockdown of 2020.

I would sum up my experience of this year through the hymn Alone with none but thee, my God:

‘Alone with none but thee, O God

I journey on my way.

What need I fear when thou art near

O King of night and day?

More safe am I within thy hand

than if a host did round me stand.’

During the rollercoaster ride of lockdown, I’ve recited these words with joy and certainty on the peaks-and through gritted teeth and blind faith in the troughs.

I live alone and have no ready-made ‘bubble’. Contact with the world has been my landline. This has been a time of reflection- for myself, our society, Church and world. Along with meltdowns, sudden crying, stupid accidents and illness, there have also been times of happiness, peace and thanks to God for what I have and the love of family and friends.

A New Reality

As lockdown began, a sense of solidarity prevailed, until reality set in and divisions appeared. Stories emerged of some breaking lockdown rules. At high risk, I began to feel imprisoned and punished for some unknown crime. Suddenly, from living a normal life, I was labelled ‘in danger of death’, confined to home, and dependent on neighbours for shopping.

This was quite a shock: I have always led an independent life. Yet I was one of the lucky ones, with a house and a garden. What about those in one-bedroom flats, high rise accommodation, care homes, even prison cells? 

I soon realised I needed to walk or stiffen up altogether. Each morning, I escaped into fields nearby. The joy of these mornings, the freedom and beauty of awakening earth, breathed life into me. Here, I knew with certainty that all would be well. I saw the power of the Holy One and was filled with awe. We are safe in His hands.

The Struggle Of Isolation

I never realised how total isolation could affect a person. I now understand why it is used as a punishment in the penal system. Outside of the mainstream of life, you feel your life has no value, and have nothing to offer. We learn who we are from those around us. Encouraging words and a loving touch tell us we have value.

Even though I saw people as I walked, it was not enough. I felt more alone. I was a spectator on life, not a participant. I once spent time with lepers in Kenya and was moved to tears when one said to me, ‘Thank you for shaking hands with me; you make me feel human.’ I now understand what he meant.

Now my prayer for the lonely, the housebound, the refugees and prisoners really comes from the heart. For me, this will end – but what about them? Will we make life more bearable- or will it be business as usual?

Isolation can open up deep, often hidden wounds, and we can feel overpowered by the endless cycle of bad news.

Battered and bruised-but enfolded in God's love

I am grateful for the journey the Lord has led me on, including a love of scripture and the experience of contemplative prayer.

The psalms echoed my pain and confusion, and always ended with hope and the certainty of God’s care. These words held me secure in dark times. In Exodus, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, I was reassured of God’s abiding care in spite of differences. In silence, I was enfolded in His love. I am an active participant with God in this mystery of suffering and redemption we call life.

I am not the person I was in March 2020. I feel battered and bruised, and more fragile. Yet this has also been a time of grace, a time of letting go. I have shared in the pain of others. My heart is full of gratitude to this great God who is happy to spend time with me.

A “Thank you” rises like a cloud of butterflies from my small heart to His great one.

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