Normal has changed

Throughout lockdown I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘change’. I’ve been thinking about how life is different from before lockdown, and what we’ll be like when we fully step out of it. Though each year never pans out quite the way we imagine, this has certainly surprised us all.

The UK went into lockdown on 23 March 2020, as did many other countries around the same time. Though the changes didn’t all happen overnight, within the first few weeks we settled into this new ‘normal’. A normal with homes becoming schools and offices. Suddenly most shops were closed and shelves became bare. A world where shaking hands or hugging loved ones is too dangerous.

Understandably people began to say that they ‘couldn’t wait for us to get back to normal’ – back to the way things were before lockdown. And this got me thinking: can and should we ‘go back to normal’?

By this I’m not saying that schools and offices shouldn’t reopen. And I’m not saying that shops should stay in their ‘Spring 2020’ phase forever. Instead I think it’s important to face the future realistically: that this pandemic has changed us, and that that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Silver linings  

Our new normal has meant spending quality time with our households, and reconnecting with neighbours and friends. Regular video calls and quiz nights soon became part of the routine. Not to mention getting involved in the latest dance challenge.

Our new normal has seen us standing outside each week, giving thanks – through clapping, pots and pans, and even brass instruments – to our medical professionals and key workers. Windows have been filled with rainbows and candles to show our continued gratitude. We’ve become more aware of how connected our health is to one another, and supported each other through this time of uncertainty and isolation.

Our new normal has seen us walking, running, and cycling more often. Daily exercise became a chance to stretch our legs, even if it was just to the shop. Our air has been less polluted, and our streets safer. Holiday plans have been exchanged for days out in the garden, and local performers have entertained their neighbours with music and dancing.

Our new normal has given us time to take up new hobbies, or even return to old ones.  Kitchens have been filled with baking, homes have been redecorated, and gardens have been spruced up. We have read more books, designed our own virtual islands, and started journaling, blogging, and even making podcasts!

Our new normal has also seen growth in church congregations. Moving online has meant God’s word being preached is even more accessible to people! We’ve used this time to start Bible studies and engage in ways we can respond to current events as Christians. Many of us have also taken part in fundraisers, such as The Climb, in order to raise awareness and money for charities working to help others in this pandemic.

2020 vision

How many of us, despite being socially distanced, feel closer to our family and friends because of the time spent with them on and offline? Have more of us not realised that working in a supermarket isn’t a simple job, and in fact deserves more respect? Have we not valued our educators and students far more, for their perseverance as education moved online?  Do we not see the importance of local green spaces and parks, as we’ve gone on our daily walks? Have we not all rethought our shopping habits after seeing the impact panic buying has on food banks and the most vulnerable in our communities? 

As we ‘go back to normal’ we might be more hesitant when shaking hands or giving hugs, and the tune to ‘Happy Birthday’ will remind us just as much of soap as birthdays themselves, but we’ll also better appreciate time spent together, the staff we speak to in shops, and our healthcare systems and staff. Lockdown has given us a chance to pause and realise how fast-paced our lives can be. In stopping, many have not only reconnected with one another, but with themselves, with creation, and with God.

We have stopped and actually listened to the lived experiences of one another. We’ve witnessed the struggles and injustices of communities around the world. And we responded by standing up and saying, ‘enough is enough’. Going forward I hope we challenge our governments on how they respond to poverty in our own countries and around the world. I hope we stand up to racism and the many other injustices we have grown more aware of. 

A brighter future

Let’s keep ourselves accountable in all this too. Change starts with each of us and not always what others do first. It’s crucial we spend time re-looking at where our money goes; the products we buy and the brands we support. It’s up to us to rethink how we treat one another and the information we are taking in; to continue listening and growing together.

But in all of this, I know we can’t do it alone. Fighting for justice and a better world isn’t something distant from God’s plan for our lives, but is intertwined into what it means to be Christian. Early during lockdown verses in Philippians began to stick in my mind as a guide of how we are to live during this pandemic.

Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves.

Philippians 2:3-4

As Christians we are called to be selfless, to support and help one another out. We can’t improve this world alone. So we must be prayerful and Spirit-led in responding to the injustices we see. Not only should we share the Gospel, but also live out lives that point towards it. God is His plan for us is unchanging and eternal; we change, the world changes, but He is forever constant in His love and justice!

Let’s make this a turning point in history where we can look back and tell younger generations what happened, and how we embraced the change that came with it. Let us challenge our communities, our governments, and ourselves in how we live. Let’s not just slink back into old ways, but instead live lives that are more honouring to God. Let change be a challenge, and not something we fear.

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