‘I can’t wait to get back to normal’, is a sentence I’ve heard so much lately. It fills me with two very strong emotions. The first emotion is a deep sense of longing. This emotion agrees whole heartedly with this statement. I long to be back to normal. I long to have more freedom. I long to meet and hug friends and family. I long to go to pubs and restaurants. I long to walk to work. I long for my old daily routines.
This longing, this desire to go back to normal is quickly followed by a deep feeling of unease. My longing for normal is a longing for comfort and a romanticised view of the past because of some of the challenges of the present.
- Our ‘normal’ utterly ruins the environment and the beauty of our natural world.
- Our ‘normal’ destroys family and community, with a work obsessed individualism.
- Our ‘normal’ fosters an economy centred on consumerism, rather than fairness and the collective needs of all.
- Our ‘normal’ is violent. Violence in the home and violence between nations, communities and neighbours.
- Our ‘normal’ is creating an environment in which mental illness is thrives.
- Our ‘normal’ sees the Western church lost in the whirlpool of a quickly changing world.
Our ‘normal’ is not good enough. I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’! We have been gifted an incredible opportunity to imagine, question and act.
We can IMAGINE a new normal: God’s normal. Imagine if we could honour those who lost their lives during this horrific pandemic by creating a better world? A world more like the kingdom of God.
Imagine if our world now, in the present, was more like the future, like heaven. NT Wright puts it better than me:
‘[Jesus’ kingdom vision] … is a summons to live in the present in the way that will make sense in God’s promised future; because that future has arrived in the present in Jesus of Nazareth. It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up. Try it and see.’
Can we imagine our present ‘normal’ as if it were the future ‘normal’: God’s normal? Can we imagine our present ‘normal’ incorporating the great visions of the Kingdom of God painted beautifully in Isaiah and Revelation?
‘He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.’
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
Until our normal looks like the Kingdom of God, as embodied in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we’ve got work to do. Until heaven and earth become one and the brokenness of our world is fully restored to God’s original intention, we’ve got work to do.
As we imagine what God’s normal would look like on our earth, we can begin to QUESTION our own. We can ask the ‘why’s’, the ‘what’s’ and the ‘how’s’.
- Why are we investing so much time in Sunday services? Is church become all about Sunday’s? What could church look like when we can meet again?
- How are we going to continue to use technology and social media positively? Could we keep doing some meetings on Zoom? Could we continue to invest in our social media presence to influence change?
- Why do people believe the Christian faith is irrelevant? Why is this normal? How can we change this?
- How do we respond to racial inequality and discrimination, once again highlighted by the murder of George Floyd?
- How do we make sure that all the homeless who were given accommodation during the pandemic, have shelter after this is all over?
- How do we make sure that the cleaner air and water that we’re seeing across our damaged earth, because of lockdown, continues after this is all over?
None of this imagining and questioning is anything if done alone and if it doesn’t lead us all to ACT.
- Could we gather groups of people to ask these questions in regard to our churches, but also in regard to the broader issues facing us as a country?
- Could we join Tearfund in their Reboot campaign. They have loads of resources available to help with the very things we’ve been exploring.
Finally, of course, all of this imagining, questioning and action will come to nothing if not absolutely saturated in prayer.
Father forgive us for accepting what is considered ‘normal’
Be with us
May we be your tools to carve out a new normal
‘I can’t wait to get back to normal’, but not the normal we have now. I want a new normal. Our God calls us to his normal. ‘It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up. Try it and see.’