So I used to read for pleasure and for escape. Reading was fun, distracting, entertaining. Now, in this strange, surreal time we’re existing in, I find myself literally buried in text…overwhelmed, deluged, and drowning in the sheer number of words expressing the many aspects of this thing that has changed all of our lives. Sadly, I also find that reading is inescapable and no longer pleasurable. In fact, it’s often terrifying and mystifying, creating more questions than it answers.
One of the terrifying, question-creating things I read recently was an April 14, 2020, article in The Atlantic titled “Our Pandemic Summer” by Ed Yong. It was a long article, covering the slow, insidious spread of the virus up through its relentless April onslaught, wrapping up with questions about whether or not American Summer would dovetail with quarantines and (not) lifting restrictions.
In the article’s final section, subtitled ‘Resilience’, Yong references groups of people who we (as mainstream society) often marginalize – veterans, the elderly, the disabled – and points out that they, generally speaking, know a thing or two about isolation, about living with anxiety over what the next day will bring health-wise, about unpredictable finances and about living with a loss of control. And yet they exhibit resilience.
“Disability scholars have written about ‘crip time’ - a flexible attitude toward timekeeping that comes from uncertainty,” Yong writes.
“As the rest of the U.S. comes to terms with the same restless impermanence, it must abandon the question When do we go back to normal? That outlook ignores the immense disparities in what different Americans experience as normal. It wastes the rare opportunity to reimagine what a fairer and less vulnerable society might look like.”
Yong is a science writer for The Atlantic. I don’t know if he heard God echoes in his writing, but I sure did.
God’s people, as Pastor Jon pointed out in his Tuesday Live at 5 (4.21.20), have forever been seeking the return to normal. They, as we, have a habit of looking to God for leadership and then wandering off down paths that lead away from God and to their/our own (self-determined) best interests, which never ends well, at least in the short term.
The good news, though, is that it all works out in God-time, but Isaiah reminds God’s people (us): “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
In other words, our normal is not God’s normal, and maybe this 'end of the world as we know it’ (thanks, REM) is an opportunity to begin to live as God calls us to live, not for ourselves but for one another (John 15:12-17).
Perhaps our prayer during these unsettling, unhappy, very UNnormal times is not: Please, God, return my life to normal but rather: Please, God, lead me into a new normal, Your normal. Make me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Amen. Let it be.