I woke up early this morning wondering what the date was. I looked at the calendar and saw it was the 26th with a circle around it and the words ‘ACW blog’ scrawled beside it. I had a sinking feeling when I realized I had not written the blog.
My plan, you see, was to come back on Friday from a life-giving three-day spiritual retreat on Holy Island, and allow the words of truth that had settled in my heart there to gently spill onto the page. My blog was to be about peace and taking time out and oh how beautiful is God’s creation and the pilgrims I met and the wonderful people who served me. But, in my last hours on the island – despite my best efforts not to (I didn’t read a newspaper, had no internet access, and had no radio or television) – someone I bumped into said: ‘Have you heard? We’re out!’ I am not exaggerating when I say I nearly fainted.
I spent my last hours on the island crying. First at the altar in St Mary’s church, then I clambered over the rocks to St Cuthbert’s Island and cried out my prayers to the sea and the seals. I grappled for words and could not find them and, instead, poured out my heart in Tongues until there was nothing left.
However, coming back from the island, there has been no shortage of words. Words for, words against, some of them said in anger, some in pain, some of them mine, some of them other peoples’. Some callous words: ‘just get over it’, or well-meaning but ill-timed words: ‘time to lay aside our differences and work together.’ Those words, spoken within a few hours of a result that will affect us for generations, are easy to say by people with hope – but not so easy when your hope has gone or you are still struggling to see what it might look like.
Other words have been spoken: words like ‘divorce’, ‘unamicable’, ‘resignation’ and ‘no-confidence’. Each of these words carries a weight of meaning and consequence. I have also heard the word ‘regret’. Some people who voted ‘leave’ have said they are now beginning to regret it; that their vote was really just a protest vote, so their discontent would be heard and not swept under the carpet when what they believed the inevitable – that we would remain – happened. But it turned out the ‘leave’ word carried more power than the ‘remain’ word. And now they don’t know what to do with it.
And then there are words like ‘joy’ and ‘sadness’. One spoken by people whose political dreams have been fulfilled and sincerely hope it will lead to a better future, and the other by people, like me, who mourn what has been lost and believe we have committed political, social and economic suicide.
Christian people, for and against Brexit, have turned to the Bible too for words. Hoping to find unity there because, after all, we are one people under God. But for every Biblical verse of celebration and freedom, there are ones of lament. I was particularly touched by a post by the poet Andrew Philip who said ‘How can I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ (Ps 137:4) How indeed, but we must somehow learn. The first words that came to me when I heard the news were ‘You have sown the wind but reaped the whirlwind.’ (Hosea 8:7). None of these, I think, will be helpful or welcomed by people who feel it was right to leave. So, even the words of the Bible have not really helped.
So that brings us down to one Word. The Word who became flesh and lived among us. He lives among us now in the post-Brexit world; He lived among us before in the EU world. I do not yet know how to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, nor how or when it will cease to be strange, but I know that in the end only one Word will ‘Remain.’ And for now, that’s the only thing I can thank God for.
Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer and writing lecturer, based in
Newcastle upon Tyne. She writes
across all media, for children and adults. Her children’s books The
Young David Series and the Young Joseph Series (to be published August
2016) are available from SPCK. Her mystery novel The
Jazz Files, the first in the Poppy Denby Investigates Series, is
published by Lion Fiction, the second, The Kill Fee, will be coming
out in September 2016 . Her novel The
Peace Garden is self-published under
Crafty Publishing http://fiona.veitchsmith.com