by Dr. Josh Stowe
Over the past few days, I have heard people say that we’re living into a “new normal.” But this is anything but normal. In many ways, the world still feels upside down. Students have been told that they will finish the semester at home. Businesses are still waiting in deep unknown. Government officials speak of re-opening and moving forward but so many questions remain unanswered. We feel it. The cumulative effect is starting to mount. Fatigue is creeping-in.
We want things to go back to the way they were. We want to sit-down and grab a bite to eat at our favorite restaurant. We want to see that movie at our local theater. We want to visit with family and friends in person. PLEASE . . . But we can’t. We can’t go back, and we don’t know what lies ahead. So we live in the tension. We live in this in-between place. We don’t have a “normal.” We only have the “now.”
So what are we supposed to do? I suppose we could resign ourselves to circumstances beyond our control. We could wait for whatever comes next and just go from there. But perhaps there is something more. Perhaps we can take a few small steps to help us along the way, a few small steps to help position us well for whatever comes next. Please understand that there is nothing special about the following suggestions. They are not a quick fix strategy or a guarantee for a better life right now. They’re just a few ideas to get us thinking, to help us look beyond our current struggles and strains.
Evaluate Routines. We are so habited into certain ways of being and doing. We can’t help ourselves. We like much about our daily and weekly routines. But things have changed. Our routines have been interrupted, altered, or lost. So lets look at them and evaluate them.
- What do we miss? By looking at the things we miss, we get a sense of what’s important to us.
- What have we discovered? While recent restrictions have taken away much, they have also given us opportunities to try new things.
- What was life-giving? Not everything we try fits. Not everything is life-giving. But when we discover those things which are life-giving, we are onto something good. Take notice.
- Where do we need a reset? We all have things we could let-go. And with the current season of interruption, perhaps this is a good time to cull through places that need attention, places like empty activities, bad habits, negative attitudes, harsh tones, and addictions.
Set goals. We aren’t talking about lofty goals like climbing Mount Everest. Start small and enjoy the little things.
- Try something artistic like painting “happy trees” with Bob Ross on YouTube.
- Test the validity of old sayings like “You never forget how to ride a bike.”
- Step into the kitchen and try an old family recipe.
- Begin an exercise routine. Start small and be realistic.
- Explore a new spiritual practice or renew an old one. There are numerous resources to help introduce these practices. For those beginning in this journey, consider John Ortberg’s “The Life You Always Wanted” or Ruth Hailey Barton’s “Sacred Rhythms.” Spiritual Practices can help reframe our thinking. They help us understand the world before us, the world within us, and the world of God’s redemption and grace.
Stay Connected. Whatever the road before us may be, we do well when we go there together. Yes, we’re practicing social distancing. Yes, there are restrictions on how we connect. But we persist. We find ways to connect because we need each other. And even though familiar paths of connection are not available, there is still plenty of good to be experienced.
- Plan a picnic. Make a sandwich and pack the cooler. Head to the backyard with your family or visit a state park to meet-up with friends.
- Schedule a virtual game night with friends. There are multiple articles online to help you discover the basics.
- Have a “virtual” meal with a friend or co-worker. You can brown-bag your lunch, or you can order separately from a local restaurant. Then connect with one another through an online platform such as ZOOM, Google Hangout, or Facetime. Don’t make it a working lunch, just enjoy each other’s company.
- Call your parents. My mother would not be happy if I failed to include this one. So call your mom and dad. Check-in and say hello.
When the world is upside-down and “normal” is anything but “normal,” we might be tempted to consider heroic efforts. We want to impose our will on situations, to make things go our way. But that’s not where we live. Most of the time, we do well to manage our own stress and keep our heads above water. Consider these words from the ancient book of Psalms: “He (God) reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters . . . He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me (NLT Psalm 18:16, 19). Swimming but sinking, God finds us and rescues us. Then God leads us to a good place, a safe place, a quiet place far from the raging waters of uncertainty. And there, we discover something beautiful: God delights in us. This truth is nothing short of transformational. So let us pause, breathe deep, and take little steps in faith. For our future does not rest in our strength but in the God who sees us and loves us and rescues us.