Like many other countries worldwide, South Africa has slowly been lowering our levels of lockdown and life is gradually returning to what we once knew as normal. For most people, the pandemic has caused hardship, beyond the disappointment almost everyone has been facing. We all wonder when life will become normal again, or will it ever even be normal again?
There have been days, however, that I have wondered – how will I return to life as normal? You see, while this year has been immensely difficult, I also find myself dwelling more often lately on the good of these past six months. We know from Scripture that our God loves to bring good out of all kinds of devastating circumstances, and a worldwide pandemic is no exception. I have found myself more grateful for the unexpected gifts of this year, and reluctant to return to what was normal. Let me explain.
In these strange days, in this year of all years, our family rediscovered each other in unique ways. Our daughters rediscovered that they are best friends, and my husband and I enjoyed being together, just being, without as many demands as our usual work weeks. We established more family rituals and began a life-giving Sabbath routine. We reflected on how these days, weeks, and months on end of being together – of not going anywhere – is actually how life has been for most families throughout history. It’s only in our modern time that we are so very transient, busy, mobile.
This year, we gained an increased awareness of the needs of others and the vulnerable around us. We cut back our budget and gave extra as we were able, to help offset the difficulties of families in our church and in our community. We shopped for our coworkers who felt uncomfortable going out often. We wear masks, not only because our government requires it, but because we want to do whatever we can to protect the most vulnerable among us. We thought more about others and less about ourselves.
This year, I was reminded that home is the best place to be, and that we all thrive when we have lots of time in it together. Though we did not have many extracurricular activities to begin with, it was good to be reminded that even those are just that – extra. We don’t need them, and we can be okay without them. We recognized that it is all too easy to succumb to the cultural pressures to be heavily involved, to give our children plentiful “extra” opportunities, to fill our schedule with as many opportunities as we can juggle, lest we be perceived as lazy, or lacking grit, or failing, or… why? Why do we succumb to the cultural norm of life filled to brim anyway? We learned to love margin, and plan to keep it going forward.
This year, we recognized in a fresh way how precious life is, what a gift each day can be. Nearly all of us at this point have been touched by COVID’s devastating sting in some way, and have been compelled to hug our loved ones a little tighter, to look into each other’s eyes more deeply. In our 21st century, we easily forget that we are vulnerable, that life is fragile, that our technological advances do not prevent death. Each day we are given on this beautiful earth is a gift from our good Father, and lately, I’m more overwhelmed with gratitude.
And this year, we have been driven to consider our hope even more deeply. I have had more conversations with my children about eternity, and I have personally had to cling to the hope of life after this world with more ferocity. Though the thought of eternity has been fraught with anxiety for me, I have been compelled to trust God on a deeper level as I contemplate the many unknowns when this world grows dim. And I have found him so very trustworthy, in the darkest of unknowns.
So as life begins to return to “normal,” I am reluctant, contemplative, intentional. I am asking God for wisdom to let go of the intensity, the busyness, the disconnectedness of life pre-COVID, and to enable us to keep fresh perspective on each other, on life and death, and on hope.
Have you been able to look at this year with fresh eyes, contemplating the good that has come and the many things for which you are grateful?