A New Better?
This article first appeared in the July 2020 edition of Itchen Valley News
I have got rather bored of the expression ‘The New Normal’. It’s often accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders, a ‘nothing can be done’ look in the eyes over (what I feel sure will become the compulsory) face covering. I think that there is something defeatist, something fatalistic, about the idea of a new normal: it’s as if everyone is saying to themselves ‘we are forced into this situation; it’s a disaster and there is nothing that we can do about it’. It reminds me slightly of Private Fraser in Dad’s Army who would say at every turn of events ‘We’re all doomed!’.
But I wonder if, in this changing world, which has been thrust upon us by this horrible virus, there is any chance of finding something better, than the life we had before March this year.
But before we start down this path we do need to recognise and acknowledge, perhaps even grieve, what we have lost. Some of us may have had the unbearable trauma of losing friends and relations, people that we love, people that we have been unable to grieve for properly and to lay to rest. Some of us will have lost jobs or not found jobs they were searching for. Children and teenagers may have lost a great slug of their education, as so many parents have struggled with home schooling. Students may have lost gap years. Sweethearts, may have seen engagements and weddings disappear. Retired folk (or those who hoped to retired soon) may have seen pension funds evaporate. There will be many other challenges that individuals face, which I don’t know about. But a loss which is common to all of us, though, is a loss of predictability, a loss of certainty. It would be understandable if we were beside ourselves with fear about the future.
But while we are putting on our mental Private Fraser, sucking in our teeth and preparing to pronounce The End Of The World, perhaps it would also be good for a moment to take stock of what we have gained during this strange time of lockdown. For many families this has been a time when they have all been together for an extended period for the first time in years. No commuting, no sport, no social events and little travel has meant that we have been thrown together closer and deeper than we have been for decades. For some, this may have been an explosive combination, but, for others, it has been a joy. Many of us have used the time saved in travelling to spend getting fit. As I run round Itchen Valley early in the mornings, I see people of a generation that I never thought existed here – the roads are more like the sea front at San Franscisco with everyone running (and so many in their twenties and thirties) than the Itchen Valley I have known over the last 8 or so years. Others have found that they are not spending so much money as they are not travelling abroad on holiday any more or don’t have petrol bills to pay. Some have reinvested this unexpected windfall in claret (as I can see from the monthly glass collections). But most importantly, many of us have been able to slow down and stop haring around the whole time. This, when added to the environmental benefits of cleaner skies, thriving wild species and goats roaming the streets of Llandudno, shows some benefits to us all from the lockdown.
All of that is nice (and potentially life changing for some) but that doesn’t take away the fear for the future. Part of the problem I think is that we have thought that we are actually in control of the future. This is an illusion. The one absolutely certain thing is that life does not turn out as we expect it to. If anyone actually believed that at the beginning of this year, I feel sure that they don’t believe it any more.
But what are we to do when we can feel the seas rising, when we can see the storm clouds on the horizon and we know that our little boat is no match for what is round the corner? We need to steer for land! We need to look out for that lighthouse which can guide us away from the rocks and help us navigate to safety. That lighthouse is none other than Jesus Christ who enables us, through knowing him, to live secure in the present and makes it possible to rest our fears on his shoulders and trust him to deliver us through the storm. I know you may have all sorts of difficulties with the idea of a god existing at all, but lockdown may have given you some time to think about big questions. If you want to know how to turn your fears into something which will transform your life and give you a sense of peace, all you have to do is to contact me . And perhaps for you the new normal really will be a new better.
Revd. Alex Pease