What is the “new normal” people keep wondering about? How will we know when it’s arrived? Will it simply be a return to the "old normal?" I've often found myself wondering about these questions. And at times quite anxious as I've wondered. So much remains uncertain and outside of our capacity to control.
John Swinton, partner and friend of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries, invites us to reflect on some “movements” we might want to think about as we wonder together what the “new normal” might be when we arrive on the other side of this global pandemic. He wonders how we might move beyond the "old norms" and a hankering for what was.
One of the movements he describes is the movement “from passion to resurrection.” This movement may help us develop a renewed imagination for what it means to be the people of God on the other side of this pandemic. It is a movement rooted in the biblical story of Jesus.
Think of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem near the end of his life. People were so excited – lining the streets, waving palm branches, hailing Him as the King! It was a time of tremendous expectation. However, within a short time, the chaos of the cross would come. Everything seemed to be coming apart at the seams. All of their hopes, their dreams, their expectations – all of it seemed to be undone! They were left with profound shock, grief, fear, disorientation, feelings of being lost.
There was little sense of having any control. The future remained uncertain.
Any of this feel familiar?
Then came resurrection. Jesus overcomes death. Life overcomes the grave. New life is possible. Hope is birthed into the world. God is doing something new. Everything changes.
The resurrection brings hope in the midst of pain, suffering, lostness. God’s love is even revealed in suffering - a divine, suffering love. Hope in the midst of chaos. Life on the other side of death. New creation breaking forth like bulbs breaking through the Spring soil.
What might be born into the world on the other side of our present moment?
What resurrection possibilities might there be as “the new normal” emerges?
What fresh expressions of Christian community and love might emerge?
Swinson invites us to wonder, “perhaps the new norm that will emerge when the virus is defeated will help lead us to a place where we can see life more clearly, and love God and one another more fully. The old norm may have been an illusion that we would be unwise to chase after.”
A second movement Swinson invites us to consider is “from social distancing to loving trust.” He invites us to think about the “social distancing” we have been asked to do. We really don’t know the long-term consequences – psychologically or socially – of social distancing. What might happen if we continue to implicitly feel that everyone we encounter is a potential threat to our wellbeing? What might happen if we continue to keep at least 6 feet away from everyone? How will we ever stop doing this when it becomes safe to stop?
Swinson highlights something that has stayed with me –
“There is a difference between social distancing and physical distancing. Physical distancing is a medical term which is intended to stop us being infected by the virus. But social distancing is a relational term. We really don’t want to get into the habit of social distancing even if physical distancing might be necessary!”
This resonates. Social isolation. Social distancing. Loneliness. Being friendless. These are real issues in our society. Particularly among vulnerable members of our society and church community. These can be some of the most painful things to experience as human beings. God created us and made us for community. To belong. To belong to God – to one another – even to creation.
If we are going to feel like we belong – we need people. People to notice us. Care about us. Affirm us. Offer us the gift of their time and presence. Be with us. It is a rare and precious gift we can offer one another during this time.
Perhaps we are experiecing how deeply we need one another during this time as we navigate a world of "social distancing."
Perhaps a “new norm” could be birthed through this time when we are so very aware of how much we crave and need human connection? Perhaps a deeper, more abiding love and trust might emerge as we lean harder on one another through these times.
What might you do today - this week - this month - to foster and renew more abiding connections with others in your life?
What realities of the "new normal" do you wonder about?