What’s Important in the “new Normal”?

Dr. Phil:   Recently we have just celebrated the most important fact of our faith – the Resurrection! For most of us it was, again, quite different than our typical in-person community celebration, Of course, this does not diminish the reality of what Jesus’ resurrection means for each of us, as well as our world as a whole (though they may not know it).

I think the last year has served to remind us all again of what is truly important and essential in our life of faith. It is so easy for us to gain strength and hope from so many other (good) activities and all the support networks that we had become accustom to, but had little or no access to in the last year. Yet we have discovered afresh that even if everything else is stripped away, if we have Jesus, that is enough. If we have Him, we have all that we need.

Having our normal support systems stripped away, kind of reminds me of some thirty years ago when we first moved to Africa (and to a lesser degree ten years later when we moved to Berlin). Moving to another culture, country and language makes one realize the whole system of supports that one had become accustom to in one’s home country (and did not realize it). All of a sudden, in a new context none of these initially exist. There is a whole new set of rules of how everything works. Everyone else seems to intuitively know these (as we did in our own country), but they are strange to us as foreigners.

In our own culture/country we can rely on family, friends and know where the best place is to shop, how to pay bills and all the other daily things that make life manageable. It takes time, but anyone who moves to another country/culture (and stays for any length of time), eventually develops a new system of supports and become accustom to the new way of doing things. Some of these new ways we actually end up enjoying and saying, “Hey we should do it this way back home!” Other things are harder or impossible to adapt to long term. But this process of adaptation (technically, becoming a “TCP – Third Culture Person”) changes us to see the world with different eyes and gain a new appreciation of what we had and what our true values are.

During the last year, even in our own countries, it has seemed a bit like we were living in a different place with new rules and even new values. This is very disorientating at the best of times, but add in the stripping away of our “go to” support networks of family, friends and things that help us decompress, it is no surprise that so many have, and are, struggling. Yet, as believers, hopefully we have dug deep and discovered afresh that the Lord and our relationship with him has not changed. It is only He that can gives us stability in the midst of any culture, country, personal tragedy – or global pandemic.

If this pandemic, and the fallout it created, would have lasted only a couple of weeks I suspect it would not have changed us much. However, due to the depth and length of the change of our “new normal” we have been forced to re-evaluate our values and learn what is really important to us. While this is usually a painful process, it can ultimately produce good fruit in our lives if we have the right perspective. Even if everything else is stripped away, we can gain strength in the reality of our relationship with our risen Lord.  As our faith is tested we can come to peace in the knowledge that he can work together all things for our good, even if we can’t understand how at the time.

As with moving to another country, I have found it a helpful exercise to take some time to consider what has forever changed in my own life and in our ministry over the last year. While some things may never really go back to “normal,” this is not necessarily a net negative, but can be a positive reboot as we move forward with our lives. This testing of our faith is what produces character and gives us the strength and faith to help others as we move forward. This approach will enable us to come out the other side closer to the Lord and better disciples of Jesus –  having been refined as fine gold.

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