The New Normal

Listen, I know you’re likely in one camp or the other: you embrace this term or you reject it. I have swayed back and forth for various reasons, some of which I will explain.

On the one hand, yes, we will have a “new normal” because none of us has ever experienced anything like this. Yes, our oldest generation has gone through worse. I believe that: think of the world wars, the great depression, genocides, etc. But this is different. COVID has happened in an age of information that is historically unrivaled. News travels fast – lightning fast – whether it’s true or not, and often influences so efficiently that if it is later debunked, it is hard for people to believe the actual truth. I believe we also live in a very fearful age. I actually think that safety has ironically made us more fearful. We live so safe and clean and healthy (at least we perceive life to be this way) that we are terrified of a bad cold, needing a few stitches or a surgery, offending people, the list goes on and on. And so this fear fed the narrative – I don’t think you can disagree with this no matter what side you fall in your beliefs about this virus and its socioeconomic effects. And when you have been taught to fear something, it is very hard to walk away from that.¬† Worldwide lockdowns, terminology no one had ever heard before (social distancing, anyone??), confusing science and data have left us in a very different place than we were five months ago. And those living in epicentres or who have lost friends or family members will be scarred and will never go back to the normal they knew before.

On the other hand, I can see that there are freedoms we have given up in the name of health and safety that I still believe we should get back. Using the terminology “new normal” has the potential of convincing people that these freedoms are no longer our right. That we are too vulnerable to stand closer than six feet apart as we might get sick or get someone else sick. That we will accept the prices of groceries that have steeply risen or the extra taxes we’ll inevitably be paying to handle the government financial aid that many of us have received. I know these things are par for the course in the middle of it all but I am concerned that over time, these things will continue even though the virus itself passes. That we will be quick to do things we are told even when they are unreasonable. People aren’t meant to live alone and stay apart. I certainly intend to fight the new normal in that area at least.

So here’s the third perspective. Hopefully a Godly one.

I embrace the New Normal. Not the losses in freedoms or the fear of disease. I wholeheartedly embrace what God has been doing in the Church during this time. I believe that many who were lukewarm have become hot in this time. I know that there will be some who let their love grow cold, and will fall away. I do not deny that. But I feel revival in my heart, in my family, in the Church. I have experienced beautiful community borne out of trial and I don’t ever want to lose that, not to go back to what was “normal” before. I have prayed more, worshiped more, read more of the Word. I am revived, even in the middle of global crisis.

Yes, I still get frustrated. I still feel sorrow over what has transpired, over lives lost or in ruin. I still wonder when it’s going to end. But then I actually didn’t want it to end too soon. I wanted a chance for more of the Church to grab hold of something incredible.

In the first few weeks of lockdowns and health orders, I woke up with part of a song in my head: “You take what the enemy meant for evil, and you turn it for good.” I have tried to make that my anthem for the last few months. No matter what was meant for evil, He can turn it for good.

Think on these things

This morning, we took in our first live stream only church service. Our little church has been live streaming for some time now but this week, it wasn’t just church members who couldn’t be there in person, but all of us watching from home. We were reminded to praise God in the middle of this trial, and after the message, our family joined together to answer the global call to prayer from noon to one local time.

After this time of prayer was done, I listened to another live stream from this morning. The pastor talked about hope and optimism in this time, something that many people seem to be short on. He reminded his church, and all those watching, of the following verse:

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

This simple reminder is crucial right now. Personally, I have been in a great deal of self-conflict (and unfortunately had some conflict with other members of my family) over the opposing information and viewpoints being presented. We can easily look at statistics and see desperation and hopelessness in this time. So many people are afraid, people are sick and dying and economies are slowing down considerably. We are told to limit our gatherings, stay home, don’t even go outside – such extremes in the actual orders, let alone what social media is screaming. It is easy to get caught up in this and listen to these voices rather than the Holy Spirit.

I believe that what the enemy has meant for evil in this time will be turned to good, but we have a part to play in that. Share things that are true and honest on social media – do some real research before you hit “share” on that frightening post. Read books and watch movies or television that are pure – now is the time to build ourselves up in the Lord, not embrace what the world offers. Look on what is lovely – if it is spring where you are, appreciate that beauty outside your window. Watch your kids learn new ways to be creative in the middle of isolation. Focus on good reports first. The statistics are there every day and depending on who you are and what you are listening to, you will read them differently. Remember that while you might not feel too bad about things, the person reading what you are sharing may be despairing and living without any hope. Ask yourself if it does anyone any good to re-share something that is already circulating and causing fear or distress.

I read a comment on a local post yesterday saying that “it is time to panic.” I could not disagree more, even if this virus was about to infect my entire city. As a believer, I cannot give time to fear. Practicing caution or listening to recommendations and mandates is good but I am watching as people make up their own rules based in fear and then spread those around – much like the virus we’re trying to avoid.

I have seen sad things in the last few weeks and have watched as some people seem to have given up all hope. I have also seen beauty in this time – families coming together in ways they’ve never been able to before and neighbours watching out for each other. The latter is lovely, pure, just, true. Think on these things, brothers and sisters.

When nothing changes, and everything does

I know that I am not the only home educating parent who feels this way right now. We laugh and share snarky homeschool memes as many of our friends and neighbours are having school canceled and then we share our resources to help those parents facilitate  learning in their homes until school starts again. We acknowledge that, for most of us, especially those of us with many children, not much has changed.

But everything has. Seemingly overnight, too. Our daily life doesn’t look different, but I promise you, it feels very different. We are facing the same uncertainties, explaining things to our children, watching as our extracurricular activities and then our church services are canceled due to social distancing mandates. We have long conversations with our children and spouses about different approaches those in the homeschool community and in the Church have in this time. Do we deny mandates to have fellowship with other believers? Do we embrace this time as a time of rest and sabbath? Do we distance ourselves completely because we are or know people with weakened immune systems? Do we believe this theory or that one about what is behind this virus and ensuing pandemonium? We ask these questions and don’t always have the answers.

We go to bed knowing that things will look different in the morning and we never know what to expect.

But our kids are still home, like they always are. We’re still feeding them all their meals and snacks at home, like we always do. They are doing school (or not, in our case), using up their screen time and sometimes asking for more. We live in this surreal state, with home looking more or less the same, while the world around us is simultaneously reeling and frozen in place.

And what should we do? My personal response is to maintain an atmosphere of peace in my home, throughout all the decisions that we have to make minute by minute. My God has not given us a spirit of fear and I will not bow to it. Maybe you’re not afraid of the virus or death but are concerned about the economy, your job or what will happen if school is out for the rest of the year. I challenge you to, ” let your requests be made known unto God,” in this time. Fill yourself up with the Word, worship, and words of encouragement. Focus on the many things we have to be thankful for in this time and look out to see what you can do practically to help others. There are many people in need in this time – some need toilet paper or milk and others just need a listening ear or a number they can text anytime they feel anxious.

I said to my husband last night that I never could have predicted this two weeks ago and that knowing that makes me aware that I cannot predict what life will look like in two more weeks. This crisis, although it has not impacted me physically or financially at this time, has made me focus on living one day at a time, something I have admittedly never been great at. So while I fight for peace, I will just live one day at a time and adopt the position of “Lord willing,” as I think farther ahead. I encourage you to do the same, my friends.