Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Longing for Normal
Throughout this health crisis caused by COVID-19, I’ve heard the same sentiment over and over: I just want things to get back to normal. Admittedly, I’ve probably said it myself.
But what is “normal”? What is it that situation for which we’re so desperately longing? For most, it’s probably human interaction with people outside of your household: dinner parties, play dates, family get-togethers, and church. Some are missing mass gatherings like baseball games and concerts. For others, it’s being able to go out to the grocery store without wearing a mask or methodical hand sanitizing.
I’m going to guess many of you miss your routines too. Work, school, and socializing for most people have been confined to the walls of their homes, and it would be nice to see a different paint color now and again. Even your workout and eating patterns have probably changed with gyms and restaurants closing.
“Normal” Won’t Be So Normal
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but life isn’t ever going back to the way it was. Although most businesses will reopen, mass gatherings will eventually be allowed, and schools will (hopefully) start up again in the fall, every one of these situations will contain echoes of COVID-19.
Hospital and nursing home visits will remain restricted until a vaccine is available. Sanitizing measures and an emphasis on hand-washing aren’t going away any time soon. To protect their communities, you’ll probably see people wearing masks for months to come. And, although most medical professionals agree that we’re not yet out of the woods for COVID-19, some medical models predict that, worst-case scenario, intermittent social distancing may be required through the year 2022, with a potential resurgence of the disease coming as late as 2024.1
So what do we do? Do we continue to long for things to go back to they way they were? Do we try to make sure things go back to exactly the way they were? I propose we don’t do any of that.
Finding Your “New Normal”
Let’s consider how we can move forward to find a new normal in our lives. Here are just a few thoughts on how you might discover what your new normal is, post-COVID.
Continue With What’s Worked
The stay-at-home order hasn’t been all negative for my family, and my guess is you’ve found some “silver lining” moments during the last few months too. For instance, I will never go back to running my household without meal-planning for the week. I know this sounds trivial, but planning out what we’re eating week-by-week has reduced my stress level immensely. I started it during the Safer-At-Home order as a way to reduce our trips to the grocery store, but I plan to keep it going because it works for us. (Plus, I never have to answer the “what’s for dinner” question again. I just point at the sign on the fridge. Amazing.)
Maybe you’ve come to realize that your family relationships are better without so many events on the schedule. Perhaps you’ve picked up a new hobby that you’d like to continue. Or, maybe you’ve simply realized how nice it is to have the occasional day when you don’t get out of your pajamas. Hold onto what you’ve learned over your time at home to make your “new normal” what you would like it to be.
Serve One Another and Show Gratitude
I have been so inspired by how people have loved their neighbors throughout this whole ordeal. From birthday parades that stretch for blocks, to overflowing food pantry bins, to people with sewing machines making masks to give away, there is some serious generosity happening in our world. And then there are the signs of gratitude across our communities. Medical facilities making signs to show that “heroes work here” and tons of freebies for our essential workers are bright spots in the bleak headlines.
On the night we now celebrate as Maundy Thursday, Jesus gave a new command: Love one another (John 13:34). He gave this directive to his disciples after modeling it for them by washing their feet which, in the historical context of the story, was truly an act of love. Pastor Ben Sadler explains, “Jesus was giving a new command, connected to a new story, that is remembered with a new meal.”2 When we serve others and show gratitude, we are following this command given to us by our Savior, who modeled the ultimate act of service when he died in our place on the cross.
Can you imagine how our communities could look if this continued? It’s my prayer that this generosity of spirit continues even after COVID-19 becomes part of our collective history.
Don’t Just “Push Through It”
I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve gone to work when I’ve felt under the weather. Especially when I was teaching, it was the norm to just “deal with it” when I was sick and avoid calling in if at all possible. I know that I’m not alone in this. Because of sick leave policies and too many responsibilities, people often push themselves to go to work when they should really just stay in bed.
I’m hopeful that, through watching how community spread of COVID-19 has impacted our world, we all learn to stay home when we’re sick. It’s no longer a sign of weakness to take a day of rest when you’re sick; it’s a social responsibility and a show of love for your community. And, I also hope and pray that organizations change sick leave policies to allow people to stay home when it’s really what’s best for all employees.
Connect With Family and Friends
Because my schedule hasn’t been littered with other things, I’ve taken more time to write to, call, text, and FaceTime with family and friends over the last few months. I’ve enjoyed getting to know and connect my family again, even though it’s been through digital means. And I hope that I don’t miss opportunities to visit people once we’re able to do so again.
I’ve gotten to know my immediate family better too. I learned things about each of them that I probably never would have otherwise. For instance, my middle child eats strawberries whole, with the leaves and all. And my husband loves building models (something I’ve never seen him take the time to do, and something for which I have zero patience to do myself but love that he enjoys). Even when we can spend time apart, I hope and pray that we choose to spend time together.
Build A Relationship with Jesus
I feel like I’ve had the chance to work on the most important relationship of all: the one with my Savior. Honestly, this has come of out of a deep need to find hope and a future in a world that has seemed (at times) to be void of both. While I still have a ways to go in developing my prayer life, I’ve been consistently in His Word, listening to the encouragement and truths He has for me.
In his Good Friday message this year, Pastor Bill Limmer summed up one of the realizations I’ve had about my Savior:
“With his own blood, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and brought us under his all covering of grace. But what Jesus was really saying [ when he said, ‘it is finished’] was this: sin is dead, death is dead, Satan is dead. If you think your sin is no big deal, see Jesus on the cross. It’s a big deal. If you think your sin is too big to be forgiven, then see Jesus on the cross. God paid your price in full.”3
Sin isn’t something small. It’s so big that it should keep us separated from God. We think we feel separated from the world because of COVID-19, but it’s nothing compared to the separation we should feel for eternity. But believers won’t ever be separated from God because of Jesus. Jesus payed for everyone’s sins on that first Good Friday when he died, and he saved us all when he rose on the first Easter. His victory is ours.
Things That Should Not Be Normal
I’m really hoping that these things become permanent in the new normal. I want to maintain the connections to others and to God, caring for myself, and keeping up with the new positive routines in my life.
But, for some of you, the stay-at-home orders haven’t just been limiting; they’ve been dangerous. Those of you stuck in abusive relationships are imprisoned by your abuser. You not only long for normal; you actually need it to survive. I urge you to seek help and support. Freedom for the Captives has several resources to help you get the support you need to find a life without abuse.
Those who struggle with depression and anxiety have been trapped by magnified feelings of fear and despair. You may have experienced this before COVID-19, or it may be new to you. Either way, there’s help available. I encourage you to find someone to talk to about your feelings – a pastor, a friend, or a counselor. Christian Family Solutions is just one place you can find resources and counseling to help you find a new normal in your mental well-being.
And if you’re trying to do it alone without a relationship with your Savior Jesus, you’re missing out on freedom from sin and death. No matter what you’ve done, who you are, or where you’re at in life, you’re never too far gone to start a relationship with Jesus. He’s calling you to His side. You can reach out to me or to a pastor at Victory to learn more about Jesus.
Normal Takes Time
COVID-19 is not just a short-lived illness or a problem that lasts for a season. Experts tell us it’s here for the long haul. So, we’re bound to get frustrated as we yearn for the opportunity to find our new normal. Our patience is going to be tested.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul gives advice to the early Christians, who were dealing with struggles of their own: Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:9-12). As we wait for healing, we can either become embittered… or we can serve in joy and love. God doesn’t waste a crisis; maybe he’s giving you an opportunity to serve others when other opportunities aren’t available to you.
Even as facts about COVID-19 change and government guidelines adjust with new research, we have one thing that never changes: God our Father. No matter what this storm looks like for you and your family, God is here for you. Admit your need for him, pray to him, and cling to him for your help.
1 Van Beusekom, M. (13 May 2020). Physical distancing may extend to 2020, COVID-19 study finds. Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Retrieved from https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/05/physical-distancing-may-extend-2022-covid-19-study-finds.
2 Sadler, B. (9 April 2020). Love one another. Holy Week Worship 2020 message series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/love-one-another-maundy-thursday/.
3 Limmer, B. (10 April 2020). Rescued. Holy Week Worship 2020 message series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/rescued-good-friday/.