Stay-home fatigue is a thing. Without intending to do so, most of us have discovered over the past weeks that much of our former lives ran on automatic pilot.
Routines like the work day and the school week, grocery shopping and hitting the gym structured our days, populated our to-do lists, and focused our attention.
The what, when, and where of life had a default setting. We could function fine, well mostly fine, without reflecting on it.
In other words, things were normal.
We didn’t have to start each day strategizing how to secure toilet paper, keep the kids from melting down by noon, and stop ourselves from eating all the emergency snack food in a single sitting. Alone. In the closet. So nobody catches us.
Since the coronavirus crashed onto our shores, we’ve lost normal. We’ve lost most of the simple, habitual patterns of life. Now we’re planning and strategizing and organizing everything. Every. Stinking. Day. It’s exhausting.
I’ve heard it over and over: “I’m ready for things to get back to normal.”
But if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic’s disruption of daily life, it’s that we’ve cruised through much of our lives without really thinking about it. Sometimes normal stands in the way of a new way of living. A way that is truer to who we really are.
Don’t get me wrong. It is human to mourn the loss of normal. There is much to be grateful for in the lives that we inhabited before COVID-19 swept across the globe.
And yet, while the old normal is suspended, we have the opportunity to discern what about that old normal is not worth going back to. And we who follow Christ have a holy invitation to let that go.
Followers of Jesus are resurrection people. We’ve staked our lives on the promise that, as Paul puts it, those who are in Christ are a New Creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) And to be a new creation means that we not only accept but look for a new normal.
Jesus does more than repair what’s broken, merely putting things back the way they used to be. The resurrection brings a New Heaven and a New Earth. The former things pass away. The old normal passes away. And God brings into being a New Normal in Christ.
Okay, I’ll admit it. The New Heaven and the New Earth are a long way off. Infinitely and eternally far off. But the pattern of dying and rising that draws us ever closer to it happens every day in ways both small and great.
Each individual life consists of habits. Habits of thinking, feeling, and acting. It’s our normal.
And some of that normal—even good and beloved parts of it—must be left behind to allow something more to emerge. An old self must die so that a truer, more loving self can emerge.
Our communities have social, cultural, economic, and political patterns. Justice and peace are the ideals of community life. And the patterns we have established provide that for some of us. But not for all of us.
To achieve the justice and peace we all desire, an old normal must give way to a new normal. As we tell our own history, the American Revolution sought to do precisely that. To displace tyranny with the ideal of freedom and equality for all.
The Apostle Thomas understood that Jesus was talking about a New Normal.
In comparison to his friends, he was quick to see that the new normal would emerge from the grave of the old normal. That to be a person of the resurrection meant that he would have to let go of the comforts of the old normal. (John 20:1-31)
What Thomas saw in Jesus’ hands and feet were not disfiguring scars. Instead, he saw that Jesus’ wounds had been transformed into breath-taking icons of the divine love.
Jesus’ agony had not be left in the past. Jesus himself had been transformed. Transformed into a truer Jesus. The Jesus that Peter, James, and John had once glimpsed on the Mount of the Transfiguration.
In other words, Thomas wanted reassurance from Jesus himself before he let go of the old normal. Reassurance that letting go is the way to the new normal.
I continue to stay at home for the sake of my neighbors. And I commend you for doing the same. Together, we are flattening the curve and saving lives.
Like you, I am really tired of staying at home. But I want to do more than go back to normal. I’m looking for a New Normal.