We are living now in the most inconceivable and uncertain time of our lives due to COVID-19 pandemic. More than a million cases, and the number growing daily. The whole world is in a standstill with imposed restrictions on the movement and social life of people. As a result of complete lockdown and banning of international flights to India I got stuck in Germany. Being away from family in a situation like this is very painful. However, kudos to my kind and caring hosts here in Germany whose hospitality keeps me safe and hopeful.
It is already more than a month since I landed in Hamburg. As usual, whenever in a European city, I am amazed by its stately church buildings, rustling and bustling of activities in the city, galore of the shopping malls and restaurants etc. Normally, I would spend a bit of my time visiting these places. However, when I began my official engagements of meeting people, my ecumenical colleagues, restrictions came calling thick and fast. Social distancing and stay at home became an imposed norm as the world came to a standstill to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Business, schools and offices have remained shut for weeks and now, most people are confined to their homes. Returning to India was far from my thoughts.
Forced into such a situation this time I got to spend a lot of my time in the countryside – in the lap of the nature. I observed that, amid this, nature is rebooting itself and reclaiming its space inviting us to reconcile to God and His creation. I go for a walk every day to nearby forests, swamps, river, sea and lake. Thank God that going for a walk is still allowed in Germany if one is maintaining the specified physical distance. This was after many years, maybe after my childhood, I spent so much of time walking on the meadows and in the forests appreciating God’s beautiful creation and rendering Psalm 19 of David in my heart. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
I began to reaffirm that God’s invitation to reconcile to Him is experienced in ways far from our thoughts. Therefore, whether forced by a lockdown or a personal choice, when we take time to go out into creation, we’re inevitably reminded of God in new ways as we experience the strength of a rock, the tranquillity of a paddock, and the pleasure of a wildflower. Nature delivers beautiful sermons about the very charisma and character of God without speaking a single word. Away from the normative social distancing I could find solace in the circle of the nature, which is all encompassing, non-discriminating – the very character of God. Mind it, what I am appreciating the most now was less lively a month ago, in the freezing winter – lifeless and bare, but now, having endured the adversity, they have started producing new leaves and flowers declaring that spring is here! Life can be dull and full of challenges in situation like this but there is always hope of a fuller life if we care. It is my prayer and hope that like a season, this shall also pass. All we need to do is to prepare ourselves to reboot like nature does!
Director, India Peace Centre