It’s a New Normal. ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH! I get it. I have even said it. But like fingernails on a chalkboard, it makes me cringe. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and that inner voice that is quick to say or do something I’d regret has to be coaxed and cajoled not to. I’m not critical of the slogans intent. But while life during this covid19 crisis is new, it is most definitely NOT normal.
We were created for relationship.
Human beings are created both in the image of God and to be the image of God in relation to the world. We are created in God’s image not as isolated individuals or as a generalized humanity, but as social, relational beings. In a sense, we were made FOR each other.
It is no wonder we social beings are struggling with this ‘new normal.’ Zoom cannot handle the gap.
Written long before the coronavirus was part of our vocabulary, I read a fascinating article in the New Yorker. It was a powerful critique of the use of solitary confinement as punishment. The article considered various scenarios of isolation. Whether the circumstances were chosen,( such as long-distance sailors), or inflicted (such as for POWs or prison inmates), the sobering conclusion was the same. “Ongoing isolation from other people seems to destroy our very humanity.”
Long-distance sailors spoke of their “soul-destroying loneliness.” A journalist-held-hostage said, “I would rather have had the worst companion than no companion at all”. John McCain, who was held in solitary confinement as a POW said, “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”
I’m thankful that I don’t live alone. And even so, this strange isolating time has messed with me. Doug will attest, there are days when I’ll interrupt him, needing a hug. He obliges me and laughs. But, y’all it’s a real thing. My heart is especially heavy for those of you who do live alone. I am so sorry.
Did you know that babies who are not held, nuzzled, and hugged enough can stop growing, and if the situation persists can even die. Umpteen years later as adults are we really that different? Where there is no shared life, a single human life disintegrates from the inside out.
The power of human contact
About two weeks ago I went to the dollar store to buy some graduation decor. Becca was moving home from college and without a ceremony this was my feeble attempt to acknowledge this important milestone. With a heavy heart and wet eyes I perused the greeting cards. Another woman also distraught, was reading the same row of cards. We commiserated as best we could as we stared forward, together. Accidentally she bumped my arm and quickly apologized for “getting in my space.” Jokingly I said, “wow… I touched a human, would you do it again?” We stood erect now looking at each other. Both wearing masks, a perfect stranger and I, locked eyes. “Hi, my name is Debbie. And I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a hug.” Donna, also misty eyed, quietly said, “me too.” And we did it. Right there in the dollar store, two strangers hugged each other.
My fervent prayer is that this is NOT a new normal. Social distancing is not social. Mask wearing handicaps our ability to communicate. And six feet apart makes conversation impractical if not impossible. While I appreciate the requirement to do this temporarily, I think it would be a huge mistake to conclude that we, humanity, can survive well and the way God intended, if this were indeed a new normal.
I wrote this piece before the horrific death of George Floyd and the intense national reaction. Floyds death was unconscionable. But it makes me wonder if the unrestrained violence, hate and anger in general, is exasperated by these very ‘not normal’ circumstances we are living under.
In the meantime
So what do we do in the meantime? We pray of course. But other than that? We wait. And breathe in and out, putting one foot in front of the other. We persevere and look towards the not yet. And this part, the praying and waiting for the not yet, is not new. In fact we may hate it so much because it feels familiar and reminds us of a time when things felt hopeless.
We need Hope
Hope is powerful. I’m not talking about the kind of hope that is nothing more than wishful thinking. The kind of hope that breathes life is the either or hope. Either I hope, OR I’m hopeless. This hope says, I’m out of options and I’m completely NOT in control. This is the hope needed to fight a tough health diagnosis, to persevere after a brain injury, to keep praying for a wayward child, to live in an angry divided nation waiting for the not yet.
Why is it that it takes the either/or kind of hope before we earnestly, passionately and completely turn to God? In my experience, we won’t embrace hope, til we realize we need hope. And we need hope when we come to the end of ourselves.
Romans 8:24, 25 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Do you want hope?
Ask anyone… do you want hope? Of course, they’ll respond. Sure we want hope. What we resist is the need for hope. We want the up, without the down. But don’t you see it? The down is necessary for the up.
We can’t know good unless we know bad. We can’t know blessing unless we know loss. Christ had to be crucified before He was raised. The ultimate expression of this desperate, all out of options, either/ or hope is Christs resurrection. Our creator God knew that we couldn’t handle being isolated from Him even for a moment. He sent His son to die for us, so we would never have to be. And that becomes our blueprint.
What hope looks like
In the end, this kind of hope looks a whole lot like abiding trust. It keeps our head up when we know… It’s bad. Really bad. It’s really really bad. But I still trust in a God who is greater than how bad this is.
This whole distressing pandemic, all of it, has not caught God by surprise. Soooo… while we pray we wait patiently for the not yet and cling to hope, trusting that ultimately GodsGotThis.
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.