When I was a young man, I had an accident that altered the course for my life. I was devastated and felt as though life for me had ended. My father offered some rather sage advice. He said, “When something is broken, it can never go back to what it was. It can be fixed but it won’t be the same.” Then he continued, “But it can often be stronger. Normal is gone but you can create a new normal.” That lesson has been foundational to me through life. ‘Normal” changes. There are always new normals.
This time of sheltering in place has brought so many changes. For many, it has been a “reboot” or a resetting of life. Many people found themselves in the first week of their sequestration, so tired that they could hardly move. They did not realize that they had been living on adrenaline for so long that when they finally stopped, the adrenaline stopped as well and it turns out, they were exhausted! It took weeks to recover and find strength.
Fast forward to where we are now. Businesses are opening. Churches are preparing to gather. The country is looking for a return to “normal”. And, people are discovering that they are not certain that they have the energy or drive to even face jumping back into the frenzy of life. Their “reboot” has been healing on some ways and their physical and mental being has been operations more on the strength designed by the Creator!
Don’t be discouraged. We are going to return to normal - but it is going to be a new normal. Things we have learned during this crisis will not leave us. Businesses, educators, and pastors have experienced vertical learning curves regarding online communication. They have incorporated a tool into their arsenal that will now be a permanent part of how they operate.
People have found new interests, or ignited old ones. Those interests have great power to continue and hopefully will find a higher priority as we move forward. Families have had to regroup and remain closer. Living in the same house for days and weeks at a time will do that. The family table has returned. Long distance relationships that had little communication have discovered the wonder of “Zoom” and people are communicating.
There are other things that we have learned. When churches closed, people discovered that they could experience church online and be fed. There were even concerns that people would simply decide, “I can just watch online. I don’t need to get up and go on Sunday.” But those people are also discovering that while they can be fed a spiritual lesson via media, there is something missing about not being able to gather to gather as a church family. We are designed for fellowship and that part doesn’t fully translate over social media. There is a difference between going to church for what you can receive, and going to church to be a part of it, offering your presence and the gift of your life to others. The fullness of that relationship is value of your life being given and shared with others - something you cannot fully experience from your living room sofa.
This Sunday, we did a “soft opening”, allowing our church family to start making their way back to service. We encouraged those who were at higher risk or uncomfortable to take their time coming back. But for those who came in, the simple joy of being together and sharing their lives with each other was overwhelming. And, the encouragement they felt and shared was contagious! Together, they reached for hope that things are returning to normal.
As I consider all of this, there are a couple of scriptures that come to mind.
Malachi 4 teaches, “But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings...” The sun is rising. Normal is coming
Hebrews 10 reminds us the value of staying together. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, and not forsake the gathering of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Don’t let the time of being slowed down stop you from the future blessings that are coming towards you. You have been sheltered in place. You have experienced many things. But the sun is coming up. “Normal” is on the horizon. But it is a new “normal” and it can be a better one if you invest yourself into the process!
Dr. Tim Byler is the Lead Pastor of Connection Church in Hinesville and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.