To say that we have been in a constant state of transition would be an understatement. We are approaching the one-year anniversary of when Mayor Andy Mack declared a shelter-in-place order. Soon after that, Gov. Greg Abbott suspended all public schools, canceled the STAAR test and implemented restrictions on gatherings, businesses and restaurants. For many of us, this was the first time we had ever been under such orders. Masks were becoming a part of our standard attire and hand sanitizer was flying off the shelves.
Those first few months were tense with cases and deaths increasing by the day with no apparent end in sight. As a minister, my congregation (along with many others) had to figure out how to be the church virtually; it’s hard to believe that we had to celebrate Easter over Facebook Live.
Like many of you, I long for the day where we do not have to wear masks or worry about close contact. It has been a struggle for millions of people who are immunocompromised or ill. People in nursing and rehab facilities due to shutdown orders lost all connection with their family or friends. Some of the most vulnerable in our society in one day lost all contact with people; a human connection that is so vital for life was severed.
A common refrain I hear from people is that they want things to go back to “normal.” They want things to be how it was in February 2020, not March 2020. While I understand their sentiment, I believe that the “normal” we experienced is not coming back ever. Whatever this “new normal” might be is uncertain. I do, however, know that the effects of this pandemic (which is still going on) will be with us for the rest of our lives. There are moments in our collective human history that bind us together; we have a joint mental imprint that connects one to another. For the greatest generation, it was the effects of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Next came the continued conflicts in the world from Korea to Vietnam, from the Cuban Missel Crisis and the assassination of JFK to the threat of nuclear war. Then it was the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic. I am aware that I am missing other vital events in our nation’s and world’s history. These events changed us as Americans and citizens of the world. In all these times, there was a reckoning, a reconnecting to humanity and, for many, their faith. I am hopeful that for a moment, if not longer, there was a sense of commonality and unity, something that we desperately need to put back into our American society.
As a Christian minister, I try to see the world through the lens of the New Testament and teachings of Jesus the Christ. In the letters contained in the New Testament, there is a common theme. The church was in its infancy and followers of Christ were trying to nail down and figure out how they were going to live in a world that was different than it had been in the past. The church universal pushed back on norms and traditions of the Roman world and now these new converts to the faith did not know what they would do next; going back to their old normal was not an option. 2 Corinthians 5 reminds us that “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!”
The prospect of a “new normal” might be a scary thing. We have endured so much and we do not know how much longer we will be under a cloud of a pandemic. Instead of fretting about how the “good ol’ days” are no longer with us, let us look to how we can live fully into this new creation that is before us. What have we learned about ourselves, our community, our relationships that will be with us when we can have social gatherings again? Let us continue on this journey and view it not as something to get through but something to experience. When we move from a place of orientation to a place of disorientation, there is a learning potential found. In our faith, this disorientation can cause us to hold stronger to what we know to be true or we look for ways to connect with God differently. Eventually, we will be in a new place of orientation and we will have been changed. Upon reflection, we will see that God was present with us during times of hardship and times of jubilee. We can learn a lot about ourselves and our God when we sit in the unknown when we are comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is one of the great lessons of the pandemic: We can change even though we may not like it, but through it all, God will be with us.
For the families of the over 460,000 who have died from COVID-19, life will never be the same again. God, however, guides us and call us, moves us and molds us, so that we are reminded that the presence of God’s mercy and love were never absent from us.
Let us examine our lives and our faith and see where we are growing and learning and how that can make a positive impact on your community and world. Let’s embrace this “new normal” with open arms, open minds, and most importantly, open hearts ready to love, give and care for those in desperate need of some good news.