Back to Normal? by Monte Wolverton
As the coronavirus was just peeking over the horizon, my wife Kaye began to experience disorientation every time she awakened from sleep or a nap. Beyond that, she became weaker and unable to care for herself. After many tests, doctors are still working on a diagnosis—but the bottom line is that she requires 24-hour care. This was a huge change for both of us. Suddenly we were pretty much restricted to our home.
Just as suddenly, the coronavirus descended on the country. Our Washington State Governor Jay Inslee ordered everyone to stay at home. For my wife and I, what else was new (aside from the threat of an insidious disease with dire economic consequences and the impending collapse of social order)?
Since then we’ve fallen into a routine. Every day we get up, have coffee and read the paper. I walk our hyperactive dog who demands at least two miles a day. I may drive to my office/shop/studio in the woods a few miles away for a brief time (where I notice that the natural creation continues, entirely unaware of Covid-19). Our groceries are delivered, and I sanitize them. Occasionally we don our masks and visit a doctor. We keep in electronic touch with friends and family. No trips to restaurants, the hairdresser, dentist, mechanic, nor visits from our housecleaner or insurance agents. In the evening I fix dinner, we binge-watch for a while and go to bed. This is not much different than the way a lot of people are living now.
Thanks to God’s mercy and social distancing, the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths in our area seem to have topped out, although it’s clear that we have a long way to go. People are debating about how to reopen the country and return to normal. But what, exactly, is “normal?”
Not to diminish the pandemic, but back in the “normal” days, we blithely coexisted with far worse things. Smoking kills over 480,000 people a year in the USA—and over 7 million annually worldwide! Cancer kills about 9 million and cardiovascular disease kills about 18 million (there is some overlap with smoking, but I think you get the point). Then there’s substance abuse, violent crime, accidents, climate disasters, war—the list goes on.
Occasionally one of these horrific killers gets its claws into us or someone dear to us. If we survive, we eventually slip back into our comfortable routines, distractions and entertainments and live our “normal” lives as if we weren’t actually teetering on the edge of destruction. The coronavirus is reminding us that we are. The “normality” we seek is deceptive. It lulls us into complacency and blinds us to the suffering that surrounds us. It leads us to divert ourselves and avert our faces from the real state of things.
If we faced that reality squarely, wouldn’t we be living in a state of constant fear and gloom?
That’s exactly why Jesus reminds his followers “In this world you will have trouble.” So here we are, having trouble—and really, we’re always having trouble. But then he says “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus has triumphed over the predatory political, religious and economic systems of the world, although they are still with us. He offers us a different way to deal with the dichotomy we face daily—a holy awareness. Through him, we can look the world straight in the eye and see it for what it is, while at the same time having courage and joy because we know the troublesome world has already been subjugated by Christ.
In the meantime, Kaye and I sit in our home doing what we can and awaiting the next development. I just don’t think the world is going to return to normal as we knew it. It never does. But Jesus reminds us of the one thing that is certain—our eternal future in Him.