There are two terms I am learning to despise. “The new normal” and “back to normal”. Personally, I’d love to see these eradicated from our global vocabulary. I’d love to see us redefine “normal” with what is glorious.
The “new normal” insinuates that this isolation is going to persist. That we will continue to wear masks in public, avoid human interaction, go to church online and reserve hugging to only those in our immediate households. This isn’t healthy. This is fear-driven, and fear is a terrible taskmaster. They have done scientific studies of orphanages in third world countries and discovered that babies that weren’t held had a significant decrease in survival rates. Yet, we are programming ourselves not to have human touch. Ask a friend who is spending this isolation alone, how they feel about the lack of human contact and specifically touch. What will this do to future generations? And you don’t have to do any scientific studies to know how healing a smile can be. But we’ve masked the part of our faces designed for smiling.
Folks, church gatherings are where the soul gets nourished, and made whole. Church isn’t just a sermon and some music. Church is the gathering of God’s people, in order that we can “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘today'” (Hebrews 3:13). I am grateful for the expansion of those listening in, but I am concerned that we will forget how holy and good it is to simply be with other Christians. That we will become content in “going” to church in our pajamas and tuning in to whoever suits our fancy, when there are those in persecuted countries, who know so well the preciousness of gathering with the saints, that they risk their lives in order to do so. Yet we have freely surrendered what is even a Constitutional Right, in order to make the world not look cross-wise at us, forgetting that the only safe place to be is seeking Christ together in community. There is only One who is strong enough to defeat all the evil in the world, and even this virus. Let’s cry out to the Mercy-Giver with our collective voice.
And the term “get back to normal” insinuates that we haven’t learned immense lessons we hope to carry with us into future years. Many have been forced to slow down, savor the creases on their children and spouse’s faces, eat dinner around a table together, and maybe pick up a couple of new hobbies. If we get back to normal, we will go back to our rushing, American Dream pursuing folly. We are not machines (although before this virus many of us were living as such). We are human beings, crafted for community with our Maker and our fellow humans, beginning with our nebulous family, then neighbors, community and other planetary inhabitants.
If I could just encourage us all, let’s not get back to normal and lets not settle for this being our future definition of normal. We must wrestle against the complacency that seeks to devour what is precious and satiate us with what is harmful! As we move into the future, let’s create a new normal where we are more connected with one another, where our smiles are brighter, and where we never forget how healing a hug can be for the soul.