In a word, we find ourselves in a muddle.
“So where does that all leave us?” The Thomas Cook flight from Holguin to Manchester slams on its airbrakes just 7000 feet over our vicarage at 5.35 this morning (as usual). But rather than go back to sleep, I reach for my Galaxy to see how the General Election is doing. And as you know, it’s a hung parliament. Mrs. May’s decision to ask the country for a mandate in the Brexit negotiations now seems a big mistake. As Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld wryly tweeted: “Cameron gambled, lost. May gambled, lost. Tory party beginning to look like a casino.” But the big problem is what does this election result mean? Clearly the Tories failed to win the support the early polls promised them – but they are still easily the biggest party in parliament with a projected 318 seats. And Labour may be euphoric but they are still way behind with 262. More to the point, regarding Brexit, the most urgent question facing our nation the voters, as far as I can see, sent no clear message. Both main parties in principle supported this radical break with our European neighbours, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm. As I write this Theresa May is still our prime minister but it is not just that she has lost the confidence of the country and certainly of our party. More to the point, she must have lost confidence in herself. If she does stay – and she may well have a sense of duty to stay (even though it must be an ordeal for her), she is hardly equipped to lead tough negotiations with our former EU partners. I guess the most sensible thing to do at this stage is to phone Brussels and ask them to pause the negotiations while we sort ourselves out. The fact of the matter is that we are living during a time of massive change as those tectonic plates which undergird our nation are shifting all over the place. Too many long-term changes are taking place at once – and relatively quickly. It’s an unsettling time. In a word, we find ourselves in a muddle. “The British are proud of their ability to create a muddle and then muddle through all difficulties.” So observes social commentator and Hungarian immigrant, George Mikes. And we haven’t failed to disappoint. The children of Israel found themselves in a muddle for nearly 40 years. Their loss of nerve meant they failed to enter the land promised to them by God: they simply could not bring themselves to trust in the Lord to honour his word. And so they wandered in the desert for an entire generation. There were times when they longed to be back in Egypt. They complained vigorously to Moses: “There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3). At least life was predictable there, harsh but predictable. But God did not abandon his wayward people. He remained with them, feeding them where there was no food, giving water in barren lands. Above all, he stayed with them. At the time it felt like an ordeal. Just wandering around, no clear sense of direction, no known way. But later, looking back they began to appreciate what God was doing – although it was not obvious at the time. For it is only in insecure times we discover where true security may be found. For some of the prophets, even, it was a golden age. We see this most vividly in Hosea’s message to God’s adulterous people, as their Lord promises “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14). So it’s going to be a difficult time, not sure where we are going as a nation, unsure of the way forward. Just like 1939 when King George made his now legendary Christmas broadcast: I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’
So we pray for our nation and especially for parliament, for those who would lead us as we tread into the unknown.