When the ball dropped in Times Square on December 31, 2019, "normal" meant lots of people constantly busy doing a thousand things. It meant eating out, traveling, going to work, school, and church without giving it too much thought. Normal included shopping for necessities and frivolities, visiting whoever whenever, standing in lines shoulder to shoulder, anticipating being in large crowds for sporting events, concerts, and amusement parks. Normal meant making plans and appointments, putting dates on calendars, and expecting fun, laughter, and hugs from friends and family. Normal brought an eye-popping number on the New York Stock Exchange, new construction everywhere and plenty of jobs. In general, normal meant that we stayed too frantically occupied to be very introspective. We had a list, by golly, and every item had to be crossed off before we could climb in bed at night.
Then, someone who was sick sneezed in China, and at lightning speed, thousands were infected around the globe. We have just finished our 4th week of staying home, washing our hands more times than ever before, wearing masks and being afraid to get closer than 6 feet to anyone other than the people living in our homes. We know we have AT LEAST two more weeks to go, but we're beginning to realize the stay-at-home mandate may extend much further. And, when we ARE allowed to mix and mingle again, what will the world look like? How will we behave? Will we ever return to "the way it was" when 2019 came to a close?
In the short term and from a purely personal perspective, I'm a travel writer and blogger. The travel industry has arguably been the hardest hit by the coronavirus. How long will it take for travelers to feel safe enough to book flights, stay in hotels, go to Disney World or take the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building? If I won't be writing about travel anymore, then what does God want me to write?
Will we all wear orange and blue masks if we even HAVE football season in the fall? Will they check everyone's temperature before we go inside the stadium gates? If there is no football season, how will we harness our passions and fervor?
Has hand-shaking become taboo? Will young boys never again be taught to extend a firm handshake? What will "meet and greet" time look like in our churches? How will we acknowledge each other and welcome friends into our homes? Will we continue being touchless?
We've rediscovered our neighbors in recent weeks, because they're the ones we see when we look out our windows. Will we continue to reach out when we get back to staying busy and away from home so much?
Judging from Facebook posts, there's a whole lot of cooking, sewing, crafting, gardening, reading, general creativity and Zooming going on. Will those activities continue? There are family dinners around the kitchen table happening. Lots of board games being played. Mommas having unhindered fun with their kids. Undistracted dads playing in the front yards.
Before Covid-19, all but 4 of my grandchildren were homeschooled. Now EVERY child in America is being homeschooled, even the ones in college.
Will churches continue to use live streaming and Facebook feeds to communicate with their people? Will we finally be so glad we're back together that we forget to fuss about worship styles and just be grateful to be able to worship? Period?
We know none of this has taken God by surprise? Is He in the process of using these world events to redirect His people? We certainly have plenty of examples in the Bible of God using unusual events to put a person or a group of people on a different/better path.
God used a flood to rid the earth of wickedness and start over again with Noah's family.
God used a burning bush to redirect Moses from shepherding sheep to leading the Israelites.
God used plagues in Eqypt to free the Israelites from slavery and send them on their way to the Promised Land.
God used a great fish to turn Jonah back to Ninevah.
God used a resurrected Jesus to provide all of humanity the way to salvation and eternal life.
God used a blinding light to reveal the truth about Jesus to Paul.
Most assuredly, God can use a pandemic to shake up His people and set them on a better path. In a few years, when we all have the benefit of hindsight, I believe we'll be able to see how God's hand is in everything that is happening right now. I'm confident that if the 2019 version of "normal" never returns, we WILL be okay. Different. More cautious, perhaps, but certainly okay. I believe we'll soon refer to it not as "the new normal" but as "the better normal."
Proverbs 3:5-6 -- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
Isaiah 58:11 -- "And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."
Jeremiah 29:11 -- "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
In closing, I must share this. It's a poem written by Sara Bourne, a pastor at Hope Midtown Church in New York City. Thank you, Guy Muse (missionary in Ecuador) for sharing it via Facebook. These powerful words flowed from someone living in the hardest hit place in the world. It spoke to me. Maybe it will to you, as well.
WE’VE ALL BEEN EXPOSED
a poem by Sarah Bourns
We’ve all been exposed. Not necessarily to the virus (maybe…who even knows ). We’ve all been exposed BY the virus. Corona is exposing us. Exposing our weak sides. Exposing our dark sides. Exposing what normally lays far beneath the surface of our souls, hidden by the invisible masks we wear. Now exposed by the paper masks we can’t hide far enough behind. Corona is exposing our addiction to comfort. Our obsession with control. Our compulsion to hoard. Our protection of self. Corona is peeling back our layers. Tearing down our walls. Revealing our illusions. Leveling our best-laid plans. Corona is exposing the gods we worship: Our health Our hurry Our sense of security. Our favorite lies Our secret lusts Our misplaced trust. Corona is calling everything into question: What is the church without a building? What is my worth without an income? How do we plan without certainty? How do we love despite risk? Corona is exposing me. My mindless numbing My endless scrolling My careless words My fragile nerves. We’ve all been exposed. Our junk laid bare. Our fears made known. The band-aid torn. The masquerade done. So what now? What’s left? Clean hands Clear eyes Tender hearts. What Corona reveals, God can heal. Come Lord Jesus. Have mercy on us.”