If we set aside any reference to Caribbean dance moves or Roman Catholic theology, the word Limbo has come to us from Middle English and Medieval Latin. The word essentially means border, and we correctly understand it in the sense of being stuck between two things, in a state of uncertainty.
I guess I felt this on Sunday, not knowing what the cabinet decision would be on Monday regarding Auckland's Covid alert levels. Having for once in my life trained more than adequately for a marathon, I was keenly interested how the organizers of the already rescheduled Rotorua Marathon would respond to the expected government advisory briefing.
As it is, Auckland participants are entirely excluded, so I permitted myself a little mini-rage on Monday afternoon, where I entertained thoughts of seeking vengeance on the Covid-deniers and conspiracy theorists who have extended the tail of this Covid-19 outbreak. Then I composed myself and began to move forward.
After all, my personal limbo followed by disappointment is far less onerous than that endured by others. For some, this has been a time of sickness, unemployment, business and livelihood loss, anxiety and even death. To be honest, marathon training has been of great benefit to my mental and physical health in this season, for which I am thankful. My mental block about doing three hour runs has been overcome.
I have reflected on what leadership looks like in this season. My conscious choice for both of the organizations in which I am privileged to exercise leadership has been to heed expert, official advice, to tailor and communicate this as clearly as possible within the culture of the organization, mindful of the needs and expectations of the participants. We are seeing the logical consequences of not following this approach worked out in the Mt Roskill church and associated Covid clusters right now.
Even when we are committed to doing the right thing, people don't always get things right, opportunities are missed, and energy levels are tested. Yet we should perhaps give ourselves permission to be in a learning/experimental mode whilst attempting to exercise best practice. Remember this microscopic organism is often referred to as the Novel coronavirus. It's new and we mostly haven't done this global pandemic stuff since 1918. So let's be kind to ourselves and our leaders.
What have we learned? We have learned flexibility for one thing. We have learned that some things are important, and others can be let go. Hopefully we are learning to embrace the 'new normal'. Some things may change permanently, and actually I'm OK with that. I'm certain that as we move forward collectively, God will be with us as we faithfully seek to walk with Him.
We will build something new. Our Presbyterian tradition emerges from the heart of the Reformation, so let me give you some more Latin; 'ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundus verbum Dei' which means - 'the church, having been reformed, must continue to be reformed according to God’s Word.' What feels like limbo, is a space where the Holy Spirit can work and move.
Psalm 127:1 says:
'Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.'
All I can say is AMEN