Grace in the Midst of a "New Normal"
It is Sunday at 12:30 pm…Just thirty minutes after our second Sunday of worshipping virtually with our church as a result of the COVID-19 gathering protocols and safety measures. The dust is settling, and I am scratching my head wondering “what just happened?”
My blood pressure feels high and my head is ringing from the sound of toddlers screaming “I don’t like church, I want Peppa Pig!” and the sound of me screaming back, “We’re gonna watch church whether you like it or not!” and then singing off key hymns as our internet glitched through a service. My infant sounded off in the middle of the pastoral prayer and my wife had to get up and leave the room to calm him down. I half listened to the sermon while refereeing toddlers who were not-so-calmly debating the possession rights of Legos and snack items.
As we pioneer lives with new rhythms my hope and prayer is that one theme will be woven into those rhythms: Grace.
People say in the midst of this pandemic we must discover a “new normal.” But COVID-19 life dynamics are tough and I must confess I find myself reminiscing the good ole days of the bygone old normal and longing for its triumphant return. Perhaps you can relate and you find yourself stressed and stretched in every imaginable way. Or maybe this has been a pleasant change of pace to your otherwise busy life. Or something in between. Regardless, we all must determine a new normal and we have to decide what that looks like for each of us. As we pioneer lives with new rhythms my hope and prayer is that one theme will be woven into those rhythms: Grace.
Let’s go back to my less than ideal Sunday worship experience. My frazzled spirit and rapidly receding hairline declared something had to change… next Sunday was going to be different! But how? I immediately launched into internal banter filled with “next times.” Next time we would have better activities planned for the toddlers. Next time Jess will feed our infant son five minutes before the service. I’ll research live streams this week and next time our connections will be optimized. And for heaven’s sake next time we will load the stream before the toddlers are in the room and can see that other “church options” are available like Peppa and her British animal pals.
After pondering these things for a solid four minutes, a thought began to occur to me. I am not the least bit computer/internet savvy and I wouldn’t even know where to start in terms of optimization of our home stream. It also turns out I’m no children’s church director or even a nursery worker. But this new normal begs me to try out new roles of which I am grossly underqualified and quite unfamiliar. And try as I might, I will likely fall short of any dream scenario where my two and three year old daughters artistically draw and sing about the sermon we listen to while the baby sleeps and absorbs subconsciously the words of the hymns, later declaring his first memories are of heart stirring worship with mommy and daddy in a home marked by contentment and peace. No, the new normal with its unfamiliar roles take me to a place of weakness…and perhaps that is right where Jesus wants me.
God’s Word is replete with verses that tell us He loves to come through for his people when they most desperately need him.
God’s Word is replete with verses that tell us He loves to come through for his people when they most desperately need him. When they are hopeless without him. When they are weak and humble enough to admit it and cry out to him. And these aren’t obscure verses for nerdy pastors to unveil from deep within Old Testament narratives and minor prophets… (though the narratives and the prophets continually declare these things. Sigh. Alas, I reveal my true colors). These truths reside in the bumper sticker verses many of us know and have even memorized. Nowhere is this truth more widely known or clearly stated than in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
But (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
In our disoriented lives, full of new roles and situations that expose our weaknesses, a gospel hope rings out to us. Jesus gives grace and his grace is enough. When we feel the weakest, we are actually the strongest because we are forced to rely on a strength other than our own. A limitless power that dwarfs our pitifully limited strength. The question is do we truly believe this good news enough to lay aside our silly notions of being competent and capable in all of this COVID-19 turmoil? Will we cry out continually to the one who is? Can we embrace our multitude of weaknesses and even boast gladly in them so that the power of Christ will rest upon us? What would that look like?
First off, can you be gracious to yourself? Can you admit you don’t have it all together and that you are less than adequate in some ways? Maybe you are a student who is discovering school from a computer is challenging and it is near impossible to focus in your bedroom. Or perhaps you haven’t quite struck the perfect balance of talking to clients from home while your children pull on your leg and make demands. Maybe you were lonely before COVID-19 forced you into further isolation and you forgot to read the handbook on optimal monastic living. Perchance did you decide not to homeschool your children because…well…you are a lousy teacher! If the new normal exposes weaknesses in you then open your hands and receive the grace available for you. Jesus died for weak people like you and I to give us power. And if he is gladly extending grace then shouldn’t we take it?
So, let’s be agents of grace to a world of people who need it just as badly as we do. Let’s offer encouragement and hope rather than criticism and blame. Let’s offer Christ and his strength to a world full of weaklings, like ourselves, who desperately need him.
And while we are in the business of receiving grace, I pray we become a people who quickly extend grace to others as well. I’m pretty sure we are all dealing with our very first COVID-19 outbreak. Everyone is struggling to discover a new normal and we are all doing so in the midst of ever-increasing uncertainty and constant change. In other words, that new normal you finally get established will likely have to change soon. So, let’s be agents of grace to a world of people who need it just as badly as we do. Let’s offer encouragement and hope rather than criticism and blame. Let’s offer Christ and his strength to a world full of weaklings, like ourselves, who desperately need him. May Christ give us the grace to do so.