New (?) Normal (??) Has it arrived yet?

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are NEW every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness” Lam. 3: 22-23

The world entered 2020, the new decade with several Vision 2020 streams and pursuits inside and outside the church. Progress has led us to believe, that we, the people had all the know-how to define and predict 2020 and beyond. The pronouncements of several world leaders were underlining the belief until then, that the normal that is ahead in the new decade and beyond is going to be a predictable progress, in their own terms.

However, jolting all our visions for 2020 came March 2020, demolishing what our definition of normal was, and it was painful for all sections of the society. Early in the Pandemic Lockdown – Unlock season itself, the coining of phrase “NEW NORMAL” came into common usage. It was the natural heart cry for getting back to NORMAL (even if it’s a NEW normal).

We have not arrived at the NEW Normal yet. It’s still a marching work-in progress that started with the March 2020 experiences, some of it is narrated here:

The Homing: – Little did I know when I flew down to Pune in the 3rd week of March 2020, that there will be no travel for the next few months!!! The skies gave way to the smaller birds, wide highways were open for stretched out walking (the painful scenes of reverse migration), even ships were anchored. Except for those stuck elsewhere, many were “homed”, for 24×7 and that was indeed a new experience. While the professionals were homed with/without work, several thousands of migrant laborers getting back to their villages with/without new opportunities.

The Zooming: – Work continued, with WFH – Work From Home – meeting online, struggling to make sense of the new normal that is to arrive soon. But families, especially children got to know what their dads and moms are involved in as they peeped into their Zoom and zoomed into their world. The Zooming also gave quite a lot of e-meet fatigue

The Praying: – All religions across were praying and even corporate offices started their own dose of daily prayers, motivation and meditation talks, introspections, and so on. Even for a short while, the world, and the business world in particular, which was otherwise in a rat race, got time in this grinding halt for an introspection.
This list is not exhaustive, yet these and many other features that got into our streams are the shaping steps of the New Normal that is in the making!!!
Incidentally, ending the series of Lock downs in India, the Unlock 1 started off on Sunday, 31st May 2020, the Pentecost Sunday of 2020 (If Disciples were in Lockdown 1 (fearfully shut inside after crucifixion till resurrection), Lockdown 2 (between Resurrection and Ascension) and Lockdown 3 (between Ascension and Pentecost), did they graduate to a NEW NORMAL from the Day of Pentecost in their transition? It’s good to co-relate and think.

Digging on the word “NEW”

When we meditate on the word NEW, a verse that comes rushing to my mind is Lamentations 3:22-23 – God’s Mercies are NEW every morning. If steadfastness, faithfulness, unceasing etc., may hint at God’s NORMAL way, it is amazing to observe that NEW is the NORMAL way of God’s faithfulness and steadfastness. Yes, NEWER and NEWER NORMALS is the way how God works, as prophetically stated by Jeremiah in the shutdown of the exile (with captivities, deportations, burning of their Temple etc.,) as different levels of Lockdowns were ending their normals till then. About a millennium from their Exodus from slavery in Egypt; half a millennium from the Empire of David and Solomon with a glorious Temple in Jerusalem central to their normal spiritual life, the EXILE came demolishing all their NORMALS.

New (Normals) for the People of God – Exile and thereafter

When Jeremiah, the weeping prophet during the lockdowns of Exile wrote “His Mercies are “NEW” every morning, little would he have realized about the NEWER dimensions evolving in his times.

From Pentateuch to The New Normal Old Testament: Exile and thereafter was the period when the Scriptures expanded and were compiled as the Old Testament as we see today – the 39 Books. If they had only “the Law” – the Pentateuch until then, the Scriptures expanded to “the Law”, “the Prophets” and “the Writings” (as Jesus certified in Luke 24:44) including the narratives and history of God’s people from the times of the Pentateuch until the exile.

From Temple Times at Jerusalem to the Decentralized Synagogues: With the loss of the Temple, the worship services were moved to open places, and later to synagogues across the world. While the temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, the assemblies and sacrifices etc., started spreading from then on

From a few priests and prophets, to servants in all places: Daniel was not prophesying at the temple or sitting among the comforts of an evangelical assembly. He was right at the palace of the pagan king that burnt down the Temple, and was serving in their non-secular Kingdom. It’s an amazing host of people from varied walks of life that served the Lord in the new normal after the exile.

Can in our times too, the NEW NORMALS turnout to be a blessing?

Can we recapture a new connection with the Lord, which we lost in the mechanical old normal visions till 2020 that we are desperate to get back to? Probably like Jeremiah if we weep about the sins of our times and cry out to God, our generation too will be able to prophetically testify like the weeping Jeremiah that the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases and He expresses His faithfulness with newer and newer answers to the challenges of our times.

Pains and Challenges as we march to the New Normal
The Mask that will deprive of a smile / gesture of fellowship / friendship to each other?
The Physical Distancing, will it result as Social Distancing? Can’t we hug and receive one another any longer?
The Number Limits in meetings – Its no more the old normal congregation of young and old. The plight of the elderly is pathetic. Their social connect that they always looked for, is now deprived off.
Students in schools & colleges deprived of community activities and peer learning?
Risks in travels and visits – can’t we visit places for work and holidays?
Less personal and more virtual decision making, both at corporate and in politics, will we become victims of dictators that would use digital to push their way?
With markets crumbling, and expenses due to calamities and climate change shooting up, will there be sustainable livelihood opportunities?

We can list many more pains and challenges as we await the New Normals!

Let us pray in confidence that we will receive His NEW Mercies as in other transitions when People of God cried out for help.

Reji & Betsy Koshy make their home in Pune, with their daughter Monica a lawyer and son Roshan a Social Science Student. The family cherishes friendships, open home, discussions on contemporary topics, organic terrace farming, creative healthy cooking and lots of baking.

Reji, a sustainability professional is currently working as Head- Sustainable Banking at ESAF SMALL FINANCE BANK. Reji also serves in the Pastoral Team of the APF Congregations in Pune.

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