“I just can’t wait until things get back to normal.”
I have heard those words from many different people over the past few months as the world wrestles with the new reality forced upon us by the Covid-19 virus and our response to its aggressive spread across the world. I understand the sentiment of that statement and the longing in people’s hearts for this pandemic to be over. Of course I want that too. However I have been challenged to ponder the word ‘normal’ and whether we really want or need to return to our pre-pandemic life.
Think about it for a moment. What is ‘normal’ when it applies to our lives? The dictionary defines normal as, “the usual, typical, or expected state or condition.” So the question begs, what was usual, typical or expected prior to the pandemic and is that what we want to go back to now? Or do we want to move forward into a new post-pandemic reality which is neither typical nor usual and perhaps it would be good to have some unexpected changes to life.Of course the other question which must be asked here is a confronting one. If, when this pandemic is over, we return to our usual, typical, expected ‘normal’ life as it was before, what good will have come from this unprecedented intrusion into our lives? What lessons will we have learned? What priorities will we have been forced to re-assess? Will this whole saga have been a wasted opportunity to move into a better chapter in our lives?
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing good about this pandemic – it is horrible and nobody has welcomed this disaster. However, we also know that growing, learning and being transformed through adversity is something we human beings have done really well throughout history. There are some blessings that only come as we wrestle with the dark side of life on planet earth and emerge on the other side better, stronger, wiser and more attuned to what really matters in life.
As a Pastor and leader in the Christian Church, I really don’t want us to turn up to our buildings again when they finally re-open and just pick up where we left off. I fear that all the suffering, loneliness, inconvenience and stress we endured in the pandemic will have been for nothing if we don’t resume ‘Church’ in a very different place to where we found ourselves at the beginning of the lockdown. What we do as the Church may not look that different, but who we are, how we feel, how we worship, how we treat each other, how we pray and what priorities we place on the various ministries in which we are involved should all be different.
If we truly want to learn the lessons God is wanting to teach us at this time then we can never return to ‘normal.’ Even the phrase ‘back to normal’ contains it’s own warning – we should never want to go ‘back’ but always forward into the new day God is preparing for us.
You can use many words to describe Jesus when He ministered among us, but ‘usual,’ ‘typical,’ ‘expected’ and ‘normal’ would not be any that come to mind! This same Jesus calls us now to live in Him, through Him and for Him and that will involve a life that is less predictable but more real.
When we decide to accept Jesus’ call to follow Him, ‘normal’ will never be our destination.