I am assuming that like myself, you are a creature of habit. I have my routines and rhythms and I remain in them: I wash dishes in a certain order; I put away laundry the same way; I listen to certain podcasts first; I go to work and come home at the same time; I start on the same side of the grocery store. I have a normal, and I enjoy it.
The Coronavirus has caused everyone to adjust to a new normal. Having to adjust to a new “normal” isn’t new; our “normal” is always changing: my normal in high school looked different than my normal in college which looked different than my normal five years ago which was different than my normal one month ago. “Normal” changes.
The challenge of the change brought on by the Coronavirus is instead of changing one “normal” in our life (ie. eating healthier, a new haircut, construction detouring our route to work), multiple “normals” have changed: no sports, work from home, slow online shipping, no unnecessary trips, more hand-washing, no going out to eat, keep your distance from everyone, online learning.
I read a post on social media that said to imagine it was Christmas break, probably because that is the closest normal we can compare to what we are experiencing. Instead of changing one area of our life while the rest stays the same, many areas of our life are changing and that, on top of the health and financial concerns people are dealing with, is leading to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. It is like the rug has been pulled out from under all of us.
This is because many of the things which provide a rhythm to our lives have been taken away. The pillars which gave our day a familiarity have been removed. The safety nets we had put up are being tested, or even strained. We might even feel lost; even things that have not been directly affected by the virus have changed because of this interruption to normal.
As I search for something to give my life a sense of normalcy, one thing continues to show up in the books I read, the songs I hear, and the conversations I have: God does not change. Throughout Scripture God tells His people that He does not change: “For I the Lord do not change;…” (Mal 3:6), “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8), “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
In a world where everything changes so quickly, what a comfort it is to know the One who created it remains the same. He is still the same God today as He revealed Himself to be in Scripture and as He will be tomorrow.
Maybe that’s why God gave us a rhythm of life that valued resting in Him and what He has done. In the 10 Commandments, God commands His people to honor the Sabbath by keeping it holy; the reason for doing this in Exodus 20:11 is because God rested after creating everything and in Deuteronomy 5:15 it is because God brought His people out of Egypt.
In the rhythm of life for His people, God commanded them to have a day set apart when they remember God is the One who creates and sustains and God is the One who saves. In the midst of all the busyness and changes of life there is to be time set aside to remember who God is. To remember that there is One who is bigger and more capable than I am. To turn my gaze from myself and back to Him. To recall all the ways He has been with me in the past. To remind myself of His promises. To move my feet from the shifting sands that I placed them on through the week back onto the rock that is Christ. To hear Him say Whose I am and who He created me to be. To rearrange my life so that He is the foundation.
This does not mean that there will not be changes to “normal” that cause anxiety, but in those moments there is the peace of knowing that the God who is with us in those moments will not change. We can look at how He has been with His people in the past, and be confident that He will continue to be with His people. It is the same love that lead Him to the cross; the same compassion that caused him to touch the leper; the same strength that calmed the wind and waves; the same anger toward sin; the same peace promised during trial; God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So, maybe instead of focusing my attention on trying to cling to some semblance of “normal”, I should focus my attention on the One who stays the same even when “normal” does not.
The how of doing that, in theory, is simple: make prayer a frequent activity through my day and place reading my Bible as a central activity and not a peripheral one; stated clearly my relationship with God would take obvious priority.
While there are many ways to do those two things, when starting a new rhythm one needs to make sure it is realistic (“I will read 1000 pages each day” might not work as well as “I will read 10 minutes), it is helpful (“I will pray only in Hebrew” might not be as helpful as “I will keep a prayer journal so I can stay focused during my prayers”), and accountable (take time now to set up rhythms of accountability so that when life gets busy again these pillars are already set in stone).
The challenge, however, is not in this moment when everything feels upside down. The challenge is when the new normal becomes mundane: Will my relationship with God be pushed to the edges by the returning sports to watch, jobs to get to, or mundanity of the everyday?