The new normal
If I had a crystal ball, this is what I’d see…
DATELINE – March 2025 – DES MOINES, IOWA. The Iowa Department of Public Health today confirmed that Iowa is in the grip of a strong surge in Coronavirus cases due to the rapid spread of the Beta Omega variant of the disease. This makes Iowa the latest of the midwestern states that are watching as hospitals fill and cases rise by as much as 40 percent. “Based on the data from Belgium where the Beta Omega variant first appeared, we are in for a six-to-eight-week storm of new cases and rising numbers of deaths,” says Dr. Joy Uber Angst, PhD, epidemiologist at the University of Iowa.
School districts automatically invoke predetermined protocols. Churches do what they have done dozens of times over the last five years – make more space, alter worship, rely on virtual resources, buy more masks. Nobody gets too emotional anymore. Even the arguments of five years before are far less energetic. This is the new normal everyone started asking for in March of 2020.
TODAY – I know that we have all been hoping that the Covid-19 virus would just go away by now. I know we all have hoped for two years that things would return to a pre-pandemic “normal” instead of realizing that with every variant and each passing day a new normal with the virus as a constant companion in life was dawning. The advent of the Covid-19 virus is a permanent dimension to our lives. Like the flu, but deadlier; like the common cold, but more virulent and adaptable. This is the new normal.
I share this not to be a buzzkill but to help shake us loose from all the terrible strategies for coping with something that has killed more than 800,000 people just in this country. We have coped by giving in to our emotional reactions, our reptilian “fight or flight” brains, and tearing our communities apart over a virus that could care less about how we feel about it. As always, our fear has driven us to long for a past time when life was perfect before the virus showed up – a past that never existed. Our fear has divided us, it has robbed us of our reason and ability to move forward with the virus as a daily reality.
The antidote for such fear from a scriptural perspective is to have faith. I am not talking about magical faith healings or rejecting human ingenuity and science because “God has a plan.” The faith I am talking about is to know that God is not a god of the past, not a source of “normal” and that, as the Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn sings, “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse!” Into a world where the fact is the Covid-19 virus, God offers not a return to the past but a “new thing.”
In the reality of the exile where a vast wilderness stood between the people and home, God announced:
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)
Confronted by the power of Rome and the erosion of faith in Judea, Jesus did not call people back in time, but rather said, “no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:22) He called for people to embrace the unknown and cling to faith, not fear.
Peter wrote to his people not weighed down by the troubles of the day or fascinated with the denial the past brings but called persecuted people to embrace the persecution and hope. “…in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. (2 Peter 3:13)
In the Revelation the Divine Word is declared in the midst of trial and suffering: “… the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
You see, God is making a new way in a world where the Covid-19 virus is real and will not go away. God is calling us to stop being afraid and learn to use love, grace, mercy, and peace to unlock our brains, our hearts, our love for one another so that the virus – or any other foe – cannot defeat us. Perhaps if we can have faith in God revealed in Christ, we can stop letting the virus run our lives.
God supplies the new normal - always. It lies ahead of us not behind. Faith in the God who makes all things new frees us from the fear that is destroying us. Faith in God or fear of the virus? What is it going to be?
Pax Christi –
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor