I hope the COVID-19 pandemic ends tomorrow. I hope it disappears like a miracle. I hope we wake up in the morning and it’s just gone and we can get back to the best parts of life that we’ve had to forego these many recent months.
But that’s not going to happen.
Note: This post is based on ideas in this excellent article: Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization Is Now a Startup
There’s literally nothing beyond a miraculous act of God to suggest that this pandemic will be over any time soon. Even if/when a vaccine comes, the long term effects on our economy, educational system, social structures, et. al. are hazy at best. The forecast may be grim.
Many of us have been dealing with the current situation as if it’s an interruption in normally scheduled programming. That it’s a hiccup, a blip, before doing what we’ve always done. So we’ve build temporary shelters. Cobbled together Plan B’s (Plans B?). We’ve held our breath and hoped for an end.
But as we’ve pivoted to these temporary structures, we’ve been frustrated over and over. We’ve had to cancel every attempt to get back to normal. We’ve been running on weak emergency battery power. Driving on donuts. We’ve strained our reserves to the breaking point, personally, socially, and structurally. You can only hold your breath for so long before you suffocate.
Here’s the truth: we can’t go back to normal. Even if we wanted to. “Normal” is gone. The world has changed.
Here’s my conviction: we should not go back to normal, even if we could.
If this is an ice age, not just a blizzard, we must build shelter accordingly. There is an opportunity for these new structures to be more durable and desirable than the ones we have enjoyed in the past. But to do so will only come at great cost, and with great courage.
We must look the new reality unflinchingly and create a new way based on the new reality. Our old way, the “normal” way, was developed in a certain environment. We cannot build new structures on the old foundation. It won’t fit.
Want to open schools back up? If you mean “do school exactly how we did it in the past,” then it’s impossible, improbable, divisive, and even foolish. But if you mean, “what is great and important about our educational system and how can we build that into a new and even better system in this new reality?” Then we can get somewhere. Even somewhere better than “normal.”
Want to open church back up? If you mean “do church exactly how we did it before,” then you’re missing the point. We have to ask ourselves, What is Church? What is it for? How should it work? What are the best and worst parts and how can we magnify the best, and mitigate the worst in a new way of doing and being?
This applies across the board: church, school, business, family, localization, city planning, neighborliness, taxes, transportation, entertainment, law enforcement.
God is doing a new thing.
Let’s be careful not to mistake tradition for truth, or we’ll find ourselves defending tradition while it crumbles, and lose sight of truth altogether. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. But by all means, if the water is tepid and dirty throw it out. Keep the baby. Get a new tub, too.
So what does this mean for you and me?
Look at your structures. Look at your life. Where’s the opportunity for sweeping reforms? How can you create a new, durable, desirable structure? What’s the new, better way? How should your family interact? What about your kids’ education? Should you start doing devotionals? Do you actually need to be in a small group that helps you love Jesus? Should you read more? Watch screens less? Should you volunteer in your church and community? Should you make that hobby into a life-giving vocation? Should you invest the stimulus check not just into another gadget, but a meaningful effort at loving your neighbor?
How can you organize your life so that it’s minimally impacted by the virus? How can you build in redundancies and automatic plans when you or loved ones have to quarantine? How can you develop, maintain, and deepen your church and family community in the midst of the pandemic? Start having a life in the new world as it is, not as you wish it to be. Stop pivoting every week. Move the pivot to a singular “when this is all over,” instead of a plural “if this is still going on.”
There’s an opportunity here to create a new way in the new world. A better way? That’s my hope.