“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthains 5:17)
How dramatic does an event have to be to bring about permanent change? It is a question often asked following a human tragedy or otherwise catastrophic occurrence which is accompanied by some form of imposed sacrifice. After such happenings, life as we know it is often altered for a while. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, experts tell us that on the other side there will be what some are referring to as a “new normal.” No one, however, can tell us exactly what that will be, how soon it will arrive, or how long it will last. There are those who compare what they suspect life will be after the pandemic to what typically happens after a hurricane. People help their neighbors. They cut up one another’s fallen trees, drag waterlogged furniture to the curb, and grill food from powerless freezers. Sometimes, the bonds that form last forever; most times, however, they are fleeting. Life often returns to what it had previously been, and over time – the memory of the shared experience begins to fade.
Experiencing new life and implementing a new normal are inherent in the Christian faith. Following the death of Jesus, Paul told the early Christians they were a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that those who believed in Christ died with Him and would no longer live for themselves. Their lives would no longer be worldly; they were now more spiritual. The same is true for us, as our old sin nature was also nailed to the cross with Christ. It was buried with Him, and as He was raised by the Father – so are we raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Because of the new life that we have been given, there is an expectation that we will live a “new normal.” Paul continues: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). It is then that our purposes, desires, and understandings are made fresh. We see the world differently with new feelings toward all people—a new love for family and friends, a new compassion never before felt for enemies, and a new respect for the world.
A new normal can be experienced as either positive or negative, often dependent on the way we react to the change. New norms encourage one to deal with current conditions, rather than lamenting about what could have been or what was. It is often dependent on our ability to exercise some degree of control over the situation in which we find ourselves. In those circumstances where social distancing is essential, perhaps a silver lining will occur awakening a better appreciation for the simple things. Maybe we will never again take for granted a hug from our grandparents, the roar of a crowd at a sports event, coffee with a neighbor, a walk with a friend, a taste of communion, a pot-luck supper, a packed concert hall, or a handshake with a stranger. Possibly it’s our turn to answer the question many of us have asked of the older generation: “What did you do during this time and how did it change you?” When the pause from our old normal ends, we will hopefully find that we have become more like the person we were called to be. And it just might be that we will change for the better because of the worst we have seen.
A new creation can be an amazing thing. But if it is imposed by an outside force like a pandemic, it may not lead to any permanent change. If it is a conscious choice, such as a decision to follow Christ, it is given opportunity to result in a transformation and, yes, a new normal. When we decide to walk with God, He will be by our side and not abandon us. His Word tells us, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). If you’re on the cusp of a new normal, you won’t always know exactly what to do, but those initial fumbling steps can be a sweet training ground. As you follow Jesus, you’ll learn how to trust and lean on your faith. So be faithful, my friend, and allow that new normal to form a new you.
REFLECTION: As you walk into a season of life challenged with uncertainty – how can you prepare yourself for acceptance of that new reality, if only for a time? The Apostle Paul wrote: “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on …” (Philippians 3:12-14). When you are faced with a sudden change in your life, in what ways can you positively “press on” and embrace what lies ahead?