I howled at the moon last night. Seriously. My wife, my daughter and I stood on our patio, cupped our hands to our mouths, and howled like wild wolves at the moon. Soon, we heard the repeating reply from our neighbors also getting in touch with their inner wolves. It was a silly idea someone had on social media.
Hey! I have a great idea! Since there is a full moon tonight and we are all in need of some connection right now, let’s stand outside in our pajamas and howl at the moon like a wolf.
Howling at the moon in your pajamas is not normal.
Just a few short weeks ago, we were just living our normal, everyday lives, right?
What in the world does that word even mean now?
I have no idea what normal is anymore. But we’ve been called into this new pandemic reality, haven’t we? All of us are in this. No one is exempt.
It’s All NEW
Two years ago, my lovely wife lost her dad. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was quite hard. It’s still hard. We miss him and his near daily funny phone calls, especially now.
Of course, many of our friends and family sought to console her with often platitudinous and threadbare well-wishes. But one comforting friend’s counsel really stood out. She said, “Don’t let anyone tell you this is a ‘new normal.’ There’s nothing normal about living your life without your dad. It’s just NEW.”
I think this is what we are experiencing societally. It’s all new. Things may never be ‘normal’ again.
What if new is good?
As followers of Jesus, we are called to new more than we are called to normalcy. In God’s Kingdom, it’s always new. If you are anything like me, you’ve grown stagnant in fulfilling this call to pursue the new that God is doing. Perhaps even more accurately, we’ve actually rejected this call to the new in favor of our pursuit of the normal.
Normal is predictable.
Normal is safe.
But then this pandemic came along and snarkily said, “Whazzup world!”
Pandemics aren’t normal. But here we are.
But we’ve been here for awhile, haven’t we?
Before this pandemic, we had become people whose only connection with our neighbors was seeing their work shoes disappear behind a lowering garage door at the end of a long work day.
We had become people who fooled ourselves into believing watching our kids play sports is spending family time together.
We had become people who nightly streamed 4 different Netflix shows simultaneously in 4 different rooms of our homes.
We’ve already been pretty darn good at this social distancing thing.
As I write this reflection of where we are societally, I’m embarrassed to admit all of these “we’s” really describe me. I’m sure you can relate.
Don’t Waste the Pandemic
I think social distancing may not be affecting us as much as the reality that our normal diversions just aren’t as readily available as they were a few weeks ago.
But this pandemic has created a threshold moment in our lives. It’s a line of demarcation between our normal world and this special world we live in now. We’ll remember this season of life for the rest of our lives.
It would be a shame if we crossed through this painful barrier to arrive in this strange new Pandemic Land where isolation, stopping, and distancing are the societal norms only to return to Normal Land with no enduring souvenirs from the journey. That would be wasting a global pandemic.
Some of the best advice I ever received when I went through my divorce was: Don’t waste the pain! The message was:
Do the work.
Look truthfully at yourself.
This has been a painful threshold for all of us to cross. No one likes to leave normal. Normal is good. Normal is predictable. Normal feels like we are in control. In fact, even if bad habits and painful emotions are part of what’s normal for us, we’ll resist change just to keep those bad habits and painful emotions because they’ve become our friends, they’ve become our normal.
We are weird that way.
(Again, feel free to substitute the word “I” when you read the word “we” in this blog post. I didn’t start autobiographical so it’s too late to change now!)
But all change requires us to cross a painful threshold and we are lucky enough to live through a global event where every single person alive gets a bright and shiny one for themselves.
Just don’t waste this pandemic.
Every season of change involves a battle with an enemy, a leaving behind (usually something the enemy’s blows dislodged in us that we treasured), and an entrance into something new.
Battling the Enemy In This New Pandemic World
Because this new world in which we suddenly find ourselves doesn’t have some of the creature comforts of our old home, it’s likely some of our old battle scars and wounds might be rising to the surface.
I’ve been asking myself these three questions:
How have I used normal, everyday life to hide from God, myself and others?
Why have I been doing that?
Now that my normal escapes are unavailable, what enemy do I need to battle with once and for all?
(By the way, these monsters wait until we enter into lands like this to engage us directly. This is where the battle must be fought. Alone. When we live in Normal Land, these monsters are content to simply let us continue on as is – ineffectual, numb and joyless. But boy oh boy, when it’s just you and the monster with no Netflix for the monster to hide behind, well, don’t waste this pandemic!)
As we change, we often find there are things in our lives we no longer need. Certain ways of being that have served us well and protected us now are getting in the way of living fully and joyously. As you do battle with whatever monster you are facing, there will be places where the blows of the monster land hard. These places hurt. You may even feel chunks of yourself being knocked off. This is ok. It’s all part of the change process. Some things have to go and be left behind in Pandemic World.
As I journey through this pandemic reality, I’ve been asking myself:
What are the areas of my life that have grown stagnant and have prevented me from pursuing God, living fully present personally and connecting intimately with others?
When life gets back to the way it was, what do I need to leave behind in this Pandemic World?
This Pandemic World will end at some point, right? It has to. Please tell me this ends.
When we do battle with those parts of ourselves we’d like to change, even though we often lose something that gets left behind, we also gain new treasures. These are the spoils of victory. Perhaps it’s newfound courage to begin a new business or ministry. Perhaps you’ll discover the treasure of empathy and you’ll enjoy newfound warmth and compassion for others that enrich your life. I promise you, there will be newly discovered treasures and ways of living you will get to take with you into this post-pandemic new world.
A few questions….
If you’ve never had time to connect with family to the degree you have been recently, what would it look like to trim time and commitments elsewhere to keep this going?
If you’ve picked up a new hobby you enjoy, how will you carry it back with you to your new life?
You know the drill here, right?
Just ask yourself: What have been the blessings I’ve surprisingly noticed from living in this pandemic reality and how will I intentionally make them a permanent part of my life going forward?
(Hint: If they don’t show up on your calendar, they won’t show up at all.)
Social distancing has been hard for many of us. It’s been hard because we are wired for connection with others. A large part of our happiness comes from being in relationship with those we love. But the pandemic has been hard for other reasons, too. It’s exposed where we’ve relied on diversion and entertainment to cover our fears and our pains. It’s exposed how numb we may have become.
Might I suggest a possible treasure for you to consider carrying with you into this new world once this pandemic is over? This is a treasure I’m personally going to try to work into my life.
I’m playfully thinking of it as soulful distancing.
I realize I very much need a rhythm that must be scheduled into my life intentionally to be with God and to be with my family. And I’m going to say no to anyone and everything that tries to encroach on this rhythm.
Soulful Distancing is routinely…
Getting alone with God to get closer with Him and my true self in Him
Getting distance from others in order to return to them more present and whole
Getting distance from the tasks, to do’s and projects to get closer to the God who does the work anyway
Getting distance from the diversions and systems of survival in order to get closer to undealt with pains and fears that stifle my creativity and living fully
Getting distance from the commercialism that drives me to negatively compare my lot in life with others in order to get closer to gratitude
Getting distance from mind-numbing streaming and social media to notice the small beautiful things in this world that in their grand diminutiveness so expose the banality and ugliness of the noisy entertainment of our day
Getting distance from numbing myself to get closer to the life God intended for me
Life is not normal. It’s always new. It was just never meant to be numb.