When will things go back to normal? Google that question and you find nearly two billion results. Everyone is wondering when this world changing pandemic end? In the meantime with so little to hang our hopes on we’ve nailed them to this idea of returning to normal. The CDC, and every news organization know to humans has predicted when normal will come rolling down Main Street.
Bill Gates claimed: “By the end of 2022 we should be basically completely back to normal.”
But are your sure all you want is normal? And what is this normal we are going back to? Life without masks and all the restrictions and fears and dangers and disagreements they represent? For me it means hugging friends again. Walking the aisles of the grocery store listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young over the speakers and worrying about which bread is best. How about not being constantly confronted with our human frailty or starting every conversation with small talk around the biggest disease most of us have faced? Before COVID we found ample time and places to fend off thinking about the world’s constant troubles.
Normal then is life with a perceived safety bubble that goes beyond one’s own front door. Maybe normal release from CVF: COVID Vigilance Fatigue. We desire to return to a world where things once again match our expectations and are supposedly back under control.
But even back in the beginning of forever this was never true.
The Trouble with Normal
As Bruce Cockburn sings, “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.”
In other words, wishing for things to be the way they were is delusional. They probably never were normal to begin with.
How would you describe normal? What period would you go back to? 2019? For us 2019 was brutal!
As I wrote in How to Hope in the New Year, “Looking back is natural and sensible. When hiking an unmarked trail, and the future is always unmarked, it’s wise to turn around and examine the back trail.” But even then in order to move on you need to face the future. Otherwise all you’re doing is hoping backward. “We express backward hope in wishes and regrets. I wish I would have said — I wish I had only—.”
I wish COVID never happened! Yes! But—while we look in the rear view mirror, the road ahead takes a sharp, unexpected turn and we drive into a ditch.
What Green Growth Can You See?
On our 42 anniversary, in the midst of COVID, The Redheaded-Wildflower and I began hiking the Colorado Trail. Our second hike took us through the moonscape of 10,000 acres of the Buffalo Creek Fire. The landscape was devastated and devastating. Bare, littered with dead trees and scorched rocks. Except—except for the gloriously green new aspens. Aspen trees are the first to emerge from a wild fire. They thrive in the now nutrient rich soil and begin the process of renewal. They stood among the blackened pines quaking and glistening.
The contrast reminded me of our marriage. Among the years of fire and devastation stood the years of green growth, forgiveness, renewal, God’s grace like spring rain.
COVID has been devastating. But can you see the sprigs of green hope shooting up nourished by the pain?
Paul tells us “. . . Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message) You see this is the painful truth of life. Christ died a bloody, tortuous death only to seed new life in our lives.
To paraphrase that famous saying: COVID tried to bury us not knowing we were seeds. As we emerge sticky and tender, what new life do you see before you? Remember new is not normal. New is different. New is change.
My son and his wife are due to have a pandemic baby in August! A girl! She will add brilliance and beauty to our full family!
A Sacred Interuption
Being stuck at home, I’ve been reading those old familiar Gospels over and over.
The green growth I saw? The interruptible Christ!
Jesus was always open to a detour. “Come heal my dying daughter,” a man asks. Along the way, a sick woman grabs his hem and he stops and heals her and talks with her. Seldom does he make it to his destination without an interruption. But Jesus doesn’t simply tolerate these interminable interruptions, he turns them into sacred moments.
COVID has been everything from an interminable interruption to a devastating burned out landscape. But the promise from nature to scripture is that God is not interrupted or devastated. God is already at work renewing, redeeming, reimagining.
Take a moment and look for the new not the normal. And notice that each new comes from what we call normal or status quo.
What about you? What is God birthing from your trouble with normal?
And when will things go back to normal. With God’s luck maybe they won’t.
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