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Find contentment in lockdown

During lockdown my wife and I have several walking routes.

One route takes us past two doctors’ surgeries. These two surgeries are more or less, around the corner from each other.

One surgery advertises that this doctor offers hair reduction; the other doctor, it must be said in a larger font, boasts hair replacement and regrowth. We always hope their patients go to the right address.

Now, I am not an expert in matters of hair. My own hair, as I am regularly told, is never tidy. However, I would have thought having too much hair, or too little hair, is not a chronic or life-threatening ailment.

At worst, hair can just be an embarrassment. We will try our best to be neat and presentable, and then we should just get on with life.

Well, obviously not. We are restless; not content.

We aspire for something better with our hair, and we will even seek medical assistance, and I imagine spend a lot of money, to achieve hair satisfaction.

The apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi, observes he is content with life. He says, he knows what it is like to have little, and what it is like to have plenty (though, I assume he is speaking of money here, and not hair).

In his times of plenty and deprivation, he is content (Phil 4:11). Indeed when he writes these words, he is actually in prison.

All of this sounds a bit like the philosophy of the Cynics and the Stoics of that era. Basically, in the face of problems, one should just grin and bear it.

There was a virtue in being content, self-sufficient. However, it would seem it is not just by dint of doggedness in the face of hardship, Paul is content, rather “In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of  having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any  case, it was kind of you to share my distress (Phil 4: 12-14).

Perhaps here is an approach to the trials of our pandemic lockdowns .  .  . and not just a stray bad hair day.

A little stoicism may be indeed useful as we face our isolation and constraints. We may have become soft, and whinging has become our default position.

In any event, we assume that we should always be able to avoid unpleasantness. This pandemic however, has shown it is the great leveler.

We have forgotten ‘we are all in this together’. More to the point, as Paul reminds us, we have forgotten we are not alone in times of difficulty.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” After all Jesus himself says in the sermon on the mount, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today,” (Mt 6:34).

In other words: come on folks, be content with your lot, God is with you.

And finally, if we are doing it tough, always think of others. Paul was grateful for the Philippians and their gift to him in his distress; just as we should help others in their time of difficulty.

Being unhappy about our hair is one thing; being able to cope with lockdowns for the sake of all, is another.

Remember, this is the context in which Paul also said: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things (Phil 4: 8-9).

There is much to think about and be thankful for, even in a lockdown.

Rev Dr John Evans is a retired Uniting Church Minister

John Evans

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