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A blank canvas...

Researchers reckon that for something to become a habit, you need to do it about 60 times before it becomes something automatic. Some of us pick it up within 18 and others can take upto 256 times. I don’t think we are there yet.

Business teachers suggest that trying something new takes 21 days of practising followed by doing it every day for a further 90 days before it becomes something we think of as normal. We are definitely not there yet thankfully.

I wonder how many days of having hardly any children in school, how many days of having the children at home, how many days of getting shopping delivered, of walking or driving down empty roads will get us into a habit of a new normal?

Regardless of how ‘it’ feels, it is unlikely that we feel comfortable about everything yet. After years of training, after preparing for our normal working weeks we are faced with something that is not normal and never shall be. Some of us have slipped seemingly effortlessly into new patterns of working and new ways of seeing the world that do not accept that the horizon has shifted and the focus has changed. They have embraced a stability and calm that others will only look upon and wonder ‘what is different about how they see the world’.

For a while now Tiger (the shop) have been selling an art set – a little wooden easel with a little white blank canvas. I have one at home and every so often it catches my eye – partially because it is only very small and partially because the canvas is just so white and bare. It reflects the light on the shelf and as the easel tilts the canvas back, it looks like it is standing confidently with its face turned to the new day.

And some will see that blank canvas as something to be grasped and filled, a world of possibilities and their minds eye will be already having visions of what it might look like decorated.

Whilst others will find it an uncomfortable thing to look upon – like it is unfinished and blank and out of place or blank with no instruction, no help to start, no right answers and no outline to follow.

As the days go past some of us will have struggled with new routines and new days to work around. We have stumbled through the days not hugging, not patting on the back, not coming close to those we know. Our days have felt blank and without shape or outline, no set answers and no one to reply to our questions. Like many of the children we normally see, they must be feeling a bit all over the place too.

But as the days go past and everyone starts embracing Microsoft Teams and Zoom calls, church in your living room and working through all the old tins and things in the freezer from years ago, let us not be afraid to ask for help, seek support and find things funny when we need to laugh.

I wonder how you see the blank canvas.

I wonder whether you are seeing this time as a way of getting things done that have been laying waiting.

I wonder if you’re still just taking every day that comes as a new day because planning ahead feels too difficult.

As Jesus prepares his disciples to go out into the world (Mark 6:7-13), he reassures them that they will not need a kit list, a bag, two coats or an Iceland delivery slot booked for 3 weeks time. He assures them that the Spirit will give them words to say and good decisions to make.

As God, from the flames of a burning bush (Exodus 3), prepares Moses for the task ahead of stepping out of the normal and into the strange he reassures him that God will be with him and that he will have everything to hand that he needs and that God will give him the words that he needs. 

With that reassurance that we will not get it wrong, that whatever we feel may be inspired by our faith will be fine – so the blank canvas becomes less scary to fill, our days become less of a void and more of an opportunity, and our cupboards become more of a challenge and less of a problem.

Go well with God. Remember God holds your hand saying ‘Do not fear, I will help you’. (Isaiah 41:13)