Using COVID-19 to prepare for the 'new normal'

Many are using the word apocalypse to describe this time of upheaval in our world. We know that the word does not literally mean “the end”; it means something more like “unveiling” or “revelation.”

So what is this season revealing about you? What is being unveiled about our world and humanity? What is being showed about our environment?

What are we meant to be becoming and doing at this time?

These are good questions to ask in this coronavirus-enforced space we have been given.

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I believe that, as the body of Christ, Christians should be thinking about what the “new normal” might look like when this season passes.

Two things I’m asking people at the moment is:

‘What will you keep from this season and take into the new?’

‘What is this season telling you to leave behind?’

When we are forced to stop relying on all the props in our lives, often the Spirit can show us our own insecurities, “idols”, bad habits and internal struggles. This is not to shame us, of course, but to move us towards becoming more Christ-like, the ultimate Human.

Maybe it’s a time to listen to these inner rumblings in our hearts, minds and bodies and attend to them in this time of solitude.

Are we listening to what God is saying to us?

My husband and I have been reading Ecclesiastes together during the past couple of months. It’s been a comfort to read its sobering words, especially  given what our world – and all of us – are going through.

There is a lot that has stood out for us but the classic words from chapter 3:1-8 resonate the most. The first verse says: ‘For everything there is a season. A time for every activity under heaven.’ I like The Message version that says: ‘There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth.’

There is an ‘opportune time’ to do things.

It’s made me think again that we are going through a unique time in history and that we need ears to hear what God is saying to us. We need discernment and we need wisdom. The planet is on pause and it’s most certainly not a time to soldier on in the same ways that we have previously. It’s an opportune time; maybe even a “kairos” [critical] moment, but for what?

What are we meant to be becoming and doing at this time?

Turn outwards

At Neighbourhood Matters, the little organisation that we run in inner Sydney, my husband and I are consistently challenging the church to look outwards. We often say, “When we switch from asking ‘God, what are you doing in my church?’ to ‘God, what are you doing in my neighbourhood?’ radical things begin to happen.”

A reorientation and a reframing occur when we start looking outside of ourselves. I believe this is also happening in the church today. There is a reframing happening in this season.

We see that many churches are beginning to wake up and understand the church is one important part of the ecology of the neighbourhood where we are placed to steward the community. So people are beginning to embody Jesus’ command to love their neighbour.

For us at Neighbourhood Matters this is very exciting to see!

Turn inwards

I also think this is not only a time to turn outwards but also to turn inwards in a deeper way.

This is a moment where “deep calls to deep” as never before. As the world touches the pause button, it can be time for the body of Christ to do some serious internal work that can only happen when we go through these transitional times. The in-between space we inhabit now, where we don’t know what the new normal looks like, can be disorienting. However it is also a time that the Spirit can do the deepest work in us.

If you are a minister in a church, it may be a time when the Spirit is asking you to look at your work habits, patterns and self-care.

Pastors, know your limitations and that you can’t meet all needs.

When I was pastoring a church, there were unrealistic expectations placed on me. Clearly, there were some things I could not do and I should have simply said “no.” But my pride and thinking that a “pastor should be able to meet all needs” got in the way.

I was exhausted and often anxious.

I feel for ministers in churches today who feel more like producers than pastors, as they navigate this new online space. Be kind to yourself – you’re probably not an expert on this. Know your limitations and that you can’t meet all needs. Learn to say “no” even when you feel the pressure and anxiety of having to provide and be all things for your flock.

When I was the minister in a church, my robust ego did damage to my body, mind and spirit. But this is not what God wants. God cares more about us than our productivity.

Allow the new to emerge

The people of God are bearers of hope even in the midst of – perhaps especially in the midst of – difficult times. We long for a better world. We long for the reign of God to invade our universe. Maybe this time of disruption and upheaval is a time for this new world to emerge. But we need to do the hard work of turning inwards for this new place to manifest and then turn outward.

After all, if we the people of God are seeking and praying for transformation, if we are hoping for a better “new normal” (or world), it starts one person at a time – with each of us facing our inner chaos, praying that God makes something beautiful out of us.

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