When Can Life Return to Normal? by Greg Albrecht
A blog I was reading a few days ago cited a portion of a lecture C.S. Lewis gave to his students at Oxford during the dark and dismal days of World War II. In this excerpted quote, when Lewis mentioned the word “war,” I have taken the liberty to suggest, in brackets, the substitution of “the coronavirus.”
The war [the coronavirus] creates no absolutely new situation, it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war [the coronavirus] with “normal life.” Life has never been normal.
Just as Lewis, in a secular university during World War II, redefined “normal” so too are we as Christ- followers well served to consider how we define and understand “normal.” That is most probably the deeper spiritual lesson Lewis was teaching his students.
Most of us realize that anyone who promises (in the name of God or otherwise) that life is a fairy tale existence – one extended “days of wine and roses” – lives in la-la land. Christ-followers are well aware that following Christ means picking up their cross and following him. We know that suffering is part of following Christ, and that such a life includes self-sacrifice and service in his name. The coronavirus has shrunk our world in such a way that we might have a clearer vision of what following Christ is all about.
Life in Christ is the way of grace – as opposed to the lockdown security of a predictable and legalistic code that promises a cause and effect world. Not only is life in Christ not normal, the gospel insists that “normal” itself – as lived out during human history – is a hopeless and meaningless existence.
Following Christ is “the new normal” – the “new normal” is sanity in the midst of insanity, peace in the midst of war and reconciliation in the midst of retribution. The “new normal” of the Jesus Way is losing one’s life in order to find it – it is love rather than hate – it is grace rather than law.
Many of us long for the more normal days we lived before the pandemic in which we are all involved. Many are asking, “When will my life return to normal?” Another writer I read recently observed while she initially “gave something up” for Lent she really had no idea of how far she would be forced to go in “giving something up.” The pre-coronavirus life was an entirely different life.
When “lockdown” was mentioned then we thought of a school campus. In pre-coronavirus days “sheltering in place” was understood as huddling together and hunkering down in the midst of a storm or turbulence of some kind – not a pandemic. The point is obvious – once we surrender all to Jesus, and begin to follow him, life never really is “normal” again.
In a recent e-mail a pastor friend of mine in Europe lamented an Easter without a grand celebration with lots of people in close proximity. Celebrations of all kinds have been cancelled or redefined and restructured, and Easter will be no different. It is true – the coronavirus will no doubt cast its dark shadow across Easter, but the dark shadow of Good Friday has always preceded Easter! There is always darkness before the dawn. Always the way of the cross before the victorious resurrection. The coronavirus is leading up to Easter 2020 – preparing us for a different, yet profoundly meaningful celebration.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds… (James 1:2) The coronavirus can clarify our joy and bring our hope into sharper focus. We have forsaken our past “normal” life that we might live in Christ, and that he, our risen Lord might live in us. We are a far-from-normal new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) – the old normal has gone, the New Normal, our Lord and Savior is risen.