“I just want everything to go back to normal,” my friend said.
I could relate. I’ve loved the extra time in the afternoons with my kids, the slow pace we unwittingly adopted. And that my husband has shared more of the cooking responsibilities than normal. Seriously, he makes the best cheesy shrimp and grits you’ve ever had.
But a pandemic comes with hefty burdens.
Things I often took for granted—the health of loved ones, not going to three different stores to find a single roll of paper towels, or having to learn middle-school algebra all over again—are now sources of social contention.
My friend’s desire is valid, too. She misses coffee dates with friends, date nights with her husband, not worrying about her chronically ill child catching the virus. Why wouldn’t she want life to return to normal? It’d be a few less worries off her already full plate.
But as we talked, she vocalized what we’re all thinking: “Will life ever go back to normal?”
Attempting to go back to normal
I don’t know what life will look like tomorrow, next week, or next month. This afternoon is even looking a little sketchy. And I’m not God. Only He knows what the future holds.
But I think it’s safe to assume “normal” won’t look the same as it did before.
Our circumstances and experiences shape and change us. And this year won’t be any different. When the day comes that life resumes at full capacity, I’m not sure we’ll even want it to look like it did. My family is finding the slower pace fits us well.
But what about now? Where I live, restaurants and hair salons are reopening (albeit with limitations), and friends are booking summer vacations. The idea of some resemblance of normalcy sounds nice, right?
Yet I’m not sure a vacation is on my family’s list of priorities right now. Although it would certainly be nice. (In fact, a beach chair and some rolling waves never sounded better.) Instead, as I look at our situation, here are a few things my own family needs as life attempts to go back to normal.
1. Acceptance of what’s out of our control
“Out of my control” is not a phrase I welcome. I’m a helper and a fixer by nature.
So when my family started showing stress from weeks cooped up in the house, I started running through ideas to keep them healthy and happy. I was concocting favorite restaurant dishes, hitting up different park trails, and ordering a stack of new board games to keep us entertained.
But some things (alright, most things) are out of my control. Like when my kids miss face-to-face interaction with friends. Or how much they want to hug Grandpa but keep their distance for him to be safe. There’s no substitution for these.
Remember the “Serenity Prayer”? God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
It’s always felt on the cliché side, but right now, it makes sense. I can’t fix a virus’s impact on my family. That hurts.
But when I accept this, I stop trying to rely on my own means and reach out to God, who has control over it all. “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).
Acceptance of my inabilities also reminds me God has a greater purpose for my family than I can imagine. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The concerns I’m carrying—mainly, How is this impacting my kids?—are nothing compared to the eternal thoughts and plans He holds for my family.
2. Connection to those we love
I think what I miss most from before this “shelter-in-place” stuff is connection. I think that’s one good thing most of us can agree has come out of this: a new appreciation for face-to-face interaction.
I don’t miss dinners out or movies at our local cinema (well, minus the popcorn). I miss gathering around a table with close friends and watching our kids play tag or run through the sprinklers in the backyard. I miss hugging old friends I run into, chats with girlfriends over lattes, lunch dates with my husband when the kids are in school, and shopping trips with my mom. I long for these things as states attempt to move back to normal.
But in the meantime, my family needs to keep pursuing the relationships in front of us. I want to soak up the morning snuggles from my son as long as I’m working from home. The late-night movie marathons with my teenaged daughter. The ability to push dinner back until my husband gets home because no one has anywhere else to be.
My family is enjoying the availability we have for each other right now. I don’t want to lose that as society reopens.
3. Laughter, and lots of it
There’s so much seriousness right now—it’s about as stifling as a face mask in Walmart.
We need the tension relief only laughter can offer. We need the fun and giggles a competitive game of Sorry or Uno brings (but not Monopoly—that game has caused some serious division and tears around here). We need the latest silly PG movie and a corny joke of the day.
Laughter gives our kids a break from the worry filling their minds—When will I see my friends again? Will my grandparents get sick? Will I get to go to school in the fall? Will I get sick? Why can’t I go to camp?
These are big, legitimate concerns for such young kids. I’ll welcome any opportunity to take some of the weight of that off from their little shoulders and laugh for a bit instead.
4. Grace upon grace
Recently, I’ve snapped at my kids for no reason, grumbled about all the noise two kids and one dog can make, complained about the piles of shoes and left-out cups until I’m blue in the face, and threatened to ground everyone until school starts again.
But the worst part? I offered little grace when the others in my home acted the same (maybe even with less dramatic flair than my own fits).
As life makes awkward attempts to go back to normal, there will be a lot of missteps, crankiness, and misunderstandings. I know I’m contributing my fair share.
Yet when it all catches up to me at the end of the day, and I reach out to the Father to forgive me for all the ways I’ve sinned against my family, He doesn’t offer condemnation or an eye roll. Instead, He graciously forgives.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth … For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1:12-16).
My family needs His grace. And we need to reflect this gift (completely unearned!) to each other.
Back to a new normal
No matter how hard we try, life won’t look like it did.
Every one of us has gone through a process, changed for the better in some ways, maybe scarred from others. And it’s OK to grieve the loss of normalcy. Big life changes aren’t meant to be skimmed over. Shedding a tear isn’t weakness.
But as we begin the process of returning to this new normal, let’s take a moment to pray for God to reveal what our families need right now. Matthew 6:8 reminds us, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Thankfully, He also knows what I need when I ask for something else. Like how I recently asked for solid answers about an ongoing situation. I woke up the next morning with peace about the whole thing, answers or not.
He knows my family’s greatest need right now, and it isn’t laughter or a hug. It’s trust.
Trust in Him with whatever tomorrow brings—normal or not.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Lisa Lakey is a writer and editor for FamilyLife. Before joining the ministry in 2017, she was a freelance writer covering parenting and Southern culture. She and her husband, Josh, have been married since 2004. Lisa and Josh live in Benton, Arkansas, with their two children, Ella and Max.