The thing is, we’re all venturing out now, learning the new rules. Unsure which lane to swim in now that the pool looks so different. My husband and I went out to dinner the other night for the first time since mid-March (a little strange how the phrase mid-March means the same thing to all of us now, isn’t it?). The restaurant offered outdoor dining and I almost skipped from the car up to the hostess station in excitement. She led us to a table appropriately distanced from the others and we sat down and took off our masks. I sipped water and stared at my husband’s handsome face across the table- a face I’ve looked at thousands of times from across a restaurant table and as the murmur of conversation surrounded me, I felt such a breath of…normal. But then the waitress slid a piece of paper on top of our menus as she walked by. I grabbed it thinking it was a list of specials and I froze a little as I read “Contact Tracing Information” at the top. Taking a deep breath, I asked my husband for a pen and we filled it out.
I don’t care for the phrase “new normal,” but not for the reason you may think. I fully support wise and cautious measures to keep each other safe. The phrase “new normal” may intend to prepare us for the long haul- to get ready to be handed a contact tracing form in a restaurant by a masked waitress. And I’m on board with that being reality as long as it’s needed, but “new normal” has another implication too. It implies that we should also be ok as we accept these massive changes and disruptions in our daily lives. The loss, the fear, the anger that we encounter every day has an effect on every person we encounter because it isn’t the normal that we’re used to. We’re all grieving and grieving isn’t normal. It’s hard and painful and messy and humans notoriously don’t do it well.
Lest we forget as we come in contact with each other, every single one we meet is undergoing a continuous trauma. Exhaustion, difficult decisions, complex situations we don’t have a frame of reference for, fear (side note: a reminder in case your heart needs it- there is no shame in fear. It’s just a feeling, not a sin), and loss. It’s trauma. And the horrible truth of this fallen world is that sometimes traumatic things happen. If you’re following me, you probably already know this truth better than you want to. It’s a hard thing to learn and people react differently to it. Some get angry, some feel fear, some want to reason it away, and some reject it altogether. Many of us move between some or all of these reactions, but make no mistake, we’re all grieving. We’re all trying to adapt. And we’re all hurting.
As we endure this collective trauma, let’s use wisdom and humility with our fellow humans even as we nurture our own wounds. Are you eating well? Are you sleeping enough? Are you doing the things that feed your soul? Are you using your social support system? It doesn’t have to feel normal, and it shouldn’t feel normal. It should feel awful because it IS awful. We get to hate it because it’s healthy to hate things that aren’t good for us. There is plenty of space for grief in social distancing.
But let’s take this opportunity to embrace compassion because that is the language of our God. Hard hearts divide and the only thing found in division is nothing. Christ came for this hurting, broken, trauma-filled world. He came for just these wounds that lie and drive us apart and tell us pain lasts forever. It’s in the breaking and the vulnerability and the compassion that we find Him waiting with His own broken heart- the only broken thing that’s ever healed any broken thing.
But in the meantime, love people hard right now. Think they’re wrong? Love them harder. And that includes yourself, too.