Longing For Normal

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By Amanda Taylor Walker

Everyone has a COVID-19 story, and I am no exception. In December, my husband and I began planning an epic trip for me to visit some friends living in Central Asia and the Middle East. The planning worked out perfectly. Two weeks before I was supposed to leave, my Central Asian friends called to tell me they had been in Italy and weren’t feeling well. They were advised to self-quarantine up to 14 days. A few days before I left, they asked me to not come. Their city wasn’t experiencing a wide outbreak, but they were afraid they could pass the virus on to me IF they had it. So, I moved my entire trip to visiting my friend living in the Middle East.

When I left March 3, there were a few hundred COVID-19 cases in America, and most of them were centered in California and Washington state. I wasn’t too worried. Afterall, I lived in East Asia during the SARS outbreak of 2003. So, I went. I had an amazing time with my friend and loved seeing where she lived, the friends she knew, and praying over a people and region I never thought I would see. Then came the early morning text from my husband.

“Hey Boo…call me ASAP. Watch news. US is closing borders on Friday. We need to get you on a flight back today. If you’re not back…you might get stuck for a month. Call me. It’s gonna be fine! Don’t panic. I have a plan. But we need to talk. Love you!”

At that point, the race against time began. Chris was able to get me rerouted through London, thus bypassing Germany. I had to cut my visit a day short, but I got home. Since that time, life has been far from normal. Immediately upon returning home, we were quarantined inside our house for 14 days. We have moved from working in an office to working at home. Our kiddos have moved from the classroom to the kitchen table. Our church services have moved from the pew to the couch. And, a weekend getaway consists of playing in the backyard versus the front yard. These are, indeed, crazy and unusual times.

When life feels uncertain, I am always drawn to the Psalms. I am thankful God not only acknowledges our range of emotions, but He had King David write about some of his deepest feelings and then added those songs to scripture. This morning I read Psalm 18, and it was a balm to this coronavirus quarantined weary soul. Psalm 18 was written right after God gave David victory over King Saul. David had been running from Saul for years, and the running was now over. David opens his psalm with:

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (Ps. 18:1-3)

Look at the many ways David describes God. God is our strength, our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, our refuge, our shield, our horn of salvation, and our stronghold. These are all wartime analogies. And, right now we are all in a war against this virus threatening to take over our emotions, our peace, our comfort, our finances, our toilet paper, and, for some, even our lives. For many of us, it is a scary time. We do not know when or if we will get paid. We do not know if or when our children will go back to school. And, if they do go back to school, will they be ready for next year? And, living in Louisiana, I do not know how long we will be in a position of “shelter in place.” And, the anxious thoughts and questions continue. 

May I encourage you to grab hold of these names and character of God during this season of the in between? You have heard it said, and I will remind us: This pandemic did not take God by surprise. He knew when I left March 3rd that the spread of the virus would occur exponentially, and I would be forced to leave early. He knew that once I got home, the panic would be far from over. He knew the stock market would plummet. He knew we would all begin working from home. He knew our children would exit their schools and enter our kitchen tables. And, He knew our concept of church would be challenged. For years we have rightly exclaimed: “The church is not a building, it’s the people.” Our “new normal” is forcing us to live out that reality.

Therefore, the “new normal” doesn’t have to be all bad. For example, Monday mornings are usually one of our hardest days. I am a pastor’s wife, so Sunday is our busiest day of the week. Instead of recovering from a crazy weekend and early morning getting the kids off to school, we had a lazy morning where my kiddos got to sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, finish some schoolwork, and are now upstairs laughing and playing. It’s not normal, and I am thankful.             

For a woman who thrives off a routine, I am trying to embrace this new normal. We didn’t ask for it, but here it is. So, what are we going to do with our time? Are we going to twiddle our thumbs longing for life to go back to “normal?” Or, are we going to enjoy this extra time we have with our families? Are we going to complain about social distancing, or are we going to be thankful we have friends/family we must protect through social distancing? Are we going to look back on this time with misery, or are we going to take advantage of the gift of time God has provided?

Yes, our nation is at war against an unseen threat. But, we are not without HOPE. Instead of allowing our fear and anxiety to overwhelm us, let’s turn to the One who is our refuge, strength, shield, rock, and fortress. Run to God who has His arms open wide to embrace you and protect your heart and emotions from the attack of the enemy. Cry out to Him during this season of uncertainty and ask Him to show you how He wants you to use your time during this season of the in between.Though some places in America are beginning to get glimpses of normalcy, one thing is certain…this COVID-19 pandemic will leave the world forever changed. Though businesses are opening, schools are talking about moving students back to campus, the economy will, prayerfully, rebound, and life is slowly turning back to “normal,” we aredifferent. My prayer is that when this is all over our marriages and families will be strengthened. We will know our neighbors’ names. We will finally appreciate our teachers, grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, healthcare workers, scientists, friends, and even our toilet paper. Friends, we are all in this fight together. Let’s embrace this season of uncertainty and come out stronger for having gone through it together. Sending all of you a CDC approved, social distancing HUG!