The suburban streets of Adelaide are deserted and cold, and the shrivelled brown leaves blowing around April’s* feet are not recognisable as those which just a few weeks ago had set the trees on fire with their vibrant oranges and reds. She trudges along, backpack weighing her down as she executes the lockdown routine she has established: walking within the 2.5km allowed for exercise, while buying her ‘essentials’ at the same time. She is aware that not everything she carries in her backpack is ‘essential’, and smiles at what seems like a small victory.
April is employed part-time in administrative work, and also has a role as a volunteer for Prison Fellowship Australia. As she ambles down the street, the ongoing sense of heaviness seems to lurk just below the surface, and now manifests as she reflects on a world not only reeling from a relentless infectious disease, but from floods and fires, hunger and poverty, war and cruelty, greed and an insatiable pursuit of power. A world that is suffering and in pain; a world that in many ways is grappling with the unknown and the unprecedented; a world that is divided and separated, desperately hurting, desperately trying to stay connected.
This hope of staying connected gives a brief glimpse into the lives of those in prison; those separated and set apart from the rest of society because they have broken the law. But they are not really separated, because they are now thrust into ‘communities’ of fellow inmates, where having broken the law may be the only thing that the ‘inside community’ has in common, and they remain on the outside even though they are inside.
April ponders the mutual experience of ‘separation’ for those inside and outside of prison. The common pain and grief of not being allowed at the bedside of a dying loved one; of not being there for the birth of a child; of not seeing an ageing grandparent; of not being present. The overwhelming thought that life, as it was, may never be regained seems very real here on the outside, in this hurting world. April asks, “Lord, what can be done for this common humanity, who is divided and separated? What is there that is not transient and momentary, often motivated by token, superficial gestures? The ‘let me know if I can do anything for you’ which has no real substance, or intention, or investment?”
She reflects on the true motivations of her own heart as a volunteer visiting inmates in prison.
The trudging continues, and with it comes the regret, just a small regret mind you, about the weight of too many ‘non-essentials’ in her backpack. But April is spurred on by the transient gratification they will bring when she gets home. ‘So what do You want right now Lord, in the midst of all this? In the midst of the helplessness, and the uncertainty, and the loss of hope, and the grief. What do You want?’
The words in her head are almost defiant.
And unlike the cold wind blowing around her, the reply that seems to come is like a warm, gentle breeze: ‘What I have always wanted, for each and every one of My Beloved; to come to Me, and walk with Me, and talk with Me.’
She straightens up. Her backpack does not seem so heavy now. She smiles as she basks in the reassurance of knowing that if this is the heart of the Creator God, then He will provide. And it is not over the hurting, burdened world that she must ruminate; she must just be ready for the God-syncronised encounters to authentically share His Heart, one person at a time, inside or out.
Bringing the assurance of community with other believers, and a relationship with God, from which one can never be separated.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Yvonne Smuts – Staff Writer