I have been pondering what life is all about these past few weeks.
Yes, I have had a lot of personal time with me, myself and I; assuredly maintaining social distancing always. I have discovered a few things about this new “normal.” First, it can be very lonely. I can’t hang out with friends, family, my church or anyone. I am starting to reconsider getting a dog!
Second, I have learned to do some of my work at home. However, before my wife leaves for work — she’s essential — she reminds me that my hair is going north, south, east, west and a few yet discovered directions. And, she says “You might want to do something about your hair before you go anywhere.” So, I kick my feet up in my recliner and start working on the next sermon, wearing my Carhart shirt (with burn holes from the bonfire last summer), PJ bottoms and fuzzy Husky slippers and my mug of coffee. After a dozen distractions and getting nothing done, I shower, dress and finally go to the church office to get things done.
I have also learned that it is hard to preach to an empty sanctuary. It is challenging to suddenly become a video producer competing on social media with all the other churches around the world. In the first two weeks of “hunkering down,” we quickly learned how to video record services, livestream and connect in various ways other than personal contact. I learned to do online meetings and talk to neighbors 20 feet apart.
The hardest lesson in the “new normal” is that it never stays around long enough to become normal. In the past month, I have strategized how the church will work under the new mandates. Then, days, even hours later, I am starting all over. How is this going to work? How can we keep doing meaningful ministry? Recent example: Holy Week and Easter services. And who knows what tomorrow will bring?
I feel for those whose lives are turned upside down with greater concerns than these things. I know there are people who are stretched financially, who lost jobs, or fear businesses closing, who suddenly become “at-home” teachers for their kids, who are spending too much time at home, cooped up and nowhere to go. I know there are families who can’t be together, grandparents who can’t hug their grandkids. I know there are kids who can’t play together or have friends over for a birthday party. And seniors who can’t have a graduation.
And there are those who struggle with the virus, or even the loss of someone who had it and died. I know there are those who are vulnerable and on edge, who jump when someone near them coughs or sneezes. And, I know there are those heroes we recognize today, who work in hospitals and clinics, first responders, store clerks, law enforcement, who go to work every day facing the public, with a sense of uncertainty about their own or their family’s risk.
Life has changed so fast for us. It creates anxiety, loneliness, fears, even irritability or tension with our loved ones. It can be depressing. It might make us feel a little stir crazy!
But here is what I have also learned. God loves us so very much. And He is with us through this. He can help us if we let him. Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me… Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:1, 27). And “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’” (Hebrew 15:5-7).
The Psalmist David writes in the 23rd Psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
I hope this helps you find courage and hope in “the new normal” and that you and I both don’t go completely stir crazy. Keep looking to God. He is our help and our hope! He really does have the power to raise Jesus from the dead! Though different this year, we still celebrated that Jesus is alive!
• Dan Wiese is a the pastor of Church of the Nazarene. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.