So I supported the Remain campaign. I love Europe, and I truly believe that our world needs a United States of Europe to provide a counterbalance to the emerging ruthless power of China, as well as the power of the United States. I love borderless travel in Europe, and as a British citizen, I appreciated the fact that UK’s membership of the EU contributed to this little island’s becoming the second largest economy in the EU (and, well, contributed trickle-down prosperity to its residents).
I went to sleep certain that good sense would prevail and slept in. On waking, I reached, groggily for my phone, and read The Guardian headlines in shock. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said this was “a sad day for Europe.” What? The Prime Minister David Cameron had resigned. Brexit, incredibly, had won 52 to 48.
Stocks plunged. Brexit wiped 2 trillion dollars off the global stock market. The pound plummeted against the dollar to a 31 year low, losing almost 10% of its value. Britain is on the verge of a recession.
More disturbing was J. K. Rowling’s statement that “racists and bigots are flocking to the ‘Leave’ cause, and, in some instances, directing it.” She goes on to say that it would be dishonourable and shameful to assume that everyone who voted to leave was a bigot and racist, and, for my own peace, equanimity and happiness, I am not going to assume that.
When Irene walked into my room saying “This is so sad; have you seen it Mum?” I was embarrassed about the tears streaming down my face. I was numb with a leaden sadness. I have always felt a great affection for England, to which my father had immigrated for eight colourful, exciting years, stories of which I had grown up on. England was the background of the books I read as a child; the novels and poetry I read as a teenager; the literature I studied deeply as an undergraduate as Oxford. If this was a racist vote, then I guess I felt the pangs of unrequited love!!
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One of my guiding principles, or defining decisions, however, is “I will choose to be happy.” I will not be unhappy in this beautiful world, whose skies are a ever-changing panoply of dramatic colour, whose trees showily change each season, whose beauty is never spent, and which has a dearest freshness deep down things, for God puts it there.
I have no reason to be unhappy, when I walk hand in hand with my Father on one side, and my friend Jesus on the other. When at any time, on request, the Spirit can pour, pour, pour his wine, his champagne into me.
I have no reason to be unhappy when this is my Father’s world, and he can turn anything to good.
I will have peace, because I am rather good friends with the God of the deep peace of the running wave, the still waters, and the everlasting hills, the peace he pours into my heart.
I will praise God even for this, for God can turn everything to good.
I believe that nothing in this world is so dark that God cannot vein it with silver and gold. Precious stones, after all, are made from compressed mud and muck and the bones of dead creatures.
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So what are the silver linings, in this doom and gloom? I asked my husband. He laughed. He had been looking at our accounts. After twenty years in academia, we decided to become entrepreneurs, and have owned a small company for the last nine years, exporting our products, mainly to the United States and Europe. As he quickly wired over money, we realised that, just like that, the weak pound meant that our monthly income had increased by 10%. There are many entrepreneurs and exporters in the UK.
House prices have begun to fall, which is, oddly, good news, for we are hoping to move from our beloved ancient house in the country, with a beautiful 1.5 acre garden, ponds, a detached writing cottage, a large sunny conservatory, an orchard, a vegetable garden, and old stone walls with roses tumbling over them to more expensive North Oxford, closer to our church, friends, the university, art galleries, museums, the theatre, yoga classes and the historic walks and college gardens. Lower house prices are always a boon to half the population, the half that buys houses!
And though, no doubt, my retirement portfolio, like everyone else’s, is down by thousands and thousands, you know what? I am not going to look. I don’t plan to retire in this decade, or in the next, and the one sure thing I know about money is that it comes, and it goes. Stocks rise and stocks fall and they rise again. Riches can take wing and fly away like an eagle if the Lord chooses, and when the Lord wills it, they can fly to you in exactly the same way!!
I thought of that beautiful poem of Teresa of Avila’s that I found when I was 18, and often say to myself,
Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
And I thought too of the words of Jesus which, again, I often say to myself, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.”
So, so, so, perhaps an unscrupulous, opportunistic politician who stabbed his friends in the back, and engineered this horror with wilful lies to gain fame and power will get to be Prime Minister (may it never be so, Lord!!). Perhaps there will be economic loss, recession, and varied horribleness—yet will I trust in the Lord. I remembered again that our family business really took off in 2008 and 2009 during the Great Recession when, having lower overheads, we could price our products competitively. God’s twisty-bendy goodness will never fail to astonish!!
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Though I am sad about Brexit, perhaps it is not an unmitigated disaster. The Hobbits of this Shire have their distinctive culture; their national character is different from the Elves, Men, and Dwarves, the Eagles, Wizards, Bears, Goblins, and Wild Wolves of the Continent. I realise this afresh each time I fly from England to Europe. Perhaps it was just a matter of time before Brexit happened. And perhaps Brexit might even have some benefits. Racially homogenous societies are more peaceful and orderly, I see when I travelled in Scandinavia, or Switzerland or the Greek islands—(though they lack the creativity in the arts, sciences, scholarship and cookery that characterises wonderful melting pot cultures).
Nothing is all dark; pretty much everything has a silver lining. Everything can be shaped for good in this world that God made, and God loves, and in which God’s busy hands work, moulding, shaping things for good, though we muck them up, muck them up, muck them. This world always sprawls before us like a field of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new,
Because the Holy Spirit over this bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.