Back to Normal

“Expectation is the root of all heartbreak” ~ William Shakespeare

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

We have heard a lot of people ask, “When will things be back to normal?”

There have been lots of times in my life I wanted to go “back to normal.” 

When I lived abroad, I reached a point I was ready to move home.
When things are crazy at work, I want them to settle down again.
Dad died almost 18 months ago, and I still long for normal.

In the gospel of John, when Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection, he says to her, “Do not hold on to me.” For resurrection stories to be hopeful, an important step is letting go. The promise of Jesus’ resurrection was not that things would go back to normal; but that the story would continue in a new normal. Embracing a new normal is part of the promise of Christianity. 

This process is what psychologists call grief.
Grief is not something our culture is good at.
And our models of grief are not exactly accurate.
Most people can name the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Interestingly, this model was created based on interviews of terminally ill patients describing the phases they went through in processing their own mortality. The process of dying is linear; the process of being left behind is not.

Right now, our whole world has been left behind. Our old reality has died. New social norms will stay with us forever. And that is a beautiful thing! That is resurrection truth! Our ability to adapt, change, and take care of one another is the most fundamentally human—even spiritual—thing we can do.

To feel scared is normal.
To feel anxious is normal.
To long to go back is normal.
But hope comes from letting go and preparing to embrace what happens next. 

In closing, may we remember the words of the psalmist: “From the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” (Psalm 71:20). 

--If you’re looking for more conversations about grief, here are a few things that resonate with me.
Ted Talk on Grief “We don’t move on
Podcast on Grief from The Liturgists
The Harvard Business Review published an article called “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.
An interview with P.J. Fleck (Coach at University of Minnesota) on a mindset to approach a new normal

Zach Herzog

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