When can we return to normal life? That’s the million-dollar question of this progressive deconfinement. Some even argue that there will never be a normal life like there was before. In any case, there will be a before and an after of this first confinement of our modern history.
This pandemic has caused such stress, suffering and death. Never has a virus impacted so much of the population, not in our memory. The confinement imposed by our governments has assured that we all feel we are directly concerned. All of our lives have been shaken up in a parallel world, less noisy, less cluttered, less movement, less polluted, less monopolised by our consumerist obsessions, where you must eat what you cook yourself, where time seems to have lengthened and space shrunk, where the agenda got lighter and the calendar for the coming weeks is still pending. And then, the solitude… harder for those isolated, weighing on those who must endure a social life restricted to their own family cluster. And the frenzy for those who must juggle between their overexcited children, household duties and telecommuting.
All of a sudden, normal life came to a halt for a microscopic virus.
Grumbling, letting our minds run wild, keeping our heads busy and noisy… or being quiet and thinking?
The Bible tells us the story of a confined man, more so than we. He had thrown himself into the pursuit of his desires, focused on himself, his right to take care of himself, for himself, and not others, above all those that didn’t merit it. Suddenly, God turned the world around him upside down, and he found himself confined to an extremely tight space, in the belly of a “big fish”. The agenda clearly reduced and any scheduling on the calendar pending. How to react? Grumbling because the government (or God) could have foreseen it, letting his mind (for lack of space for his legs) run wild and make hypothetical plans for a return to normal, keeping his head busy and noisy… or being quiet and thinking? And then returning to the essential, taking time with God, taking stock and humbling oneself, getting priorities right. “I remembered the Lord and my prayer came to you…But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.”(1)
Yet another one, confined with pigs after rushing through life in his selfish passions. For him also, the same choice: cling to one’s rights to take care of oneself or seize the divine opportunity to be humble before God, to repent and to review priorities? “But when he came to himself, he said to himself, … I will go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned.’ And he arose and came to his father.” (2)
What are we going to make of this confinement? Welcome it as a divine opportunity or reject it? Are we going to rebel against the authorities and their illogical rules that don’t respect our rights, and continue to feed our hunger for consuming, for streaming, for online purchasing, for drive-through, or for rushing to the first stores that open their doors? Or are we going to seize the opportunity to make a point of humbling ourselves and reviewing our priorities? Can we envision another normality of life, building on the momentum of this wonderful outpouring of solidarity that has developed, towards others, for others, even those that don’t merit it? Are we going to relearn to cherish each personal relationship by caring for them and devoting more time and love to them?
God wants to speak to us, to reorient our lives.
Am I going to leave place for God in my new normal, to hear His voice? Am I going to humbly review my priorities, for Him and for others? And at church, are we going to rush back into our programmes and activities, or search for a new normal? God wants to speak to us, to reorient our lives towards Him and towards others, in the family of God and towards the weakest among us. Let’s remember Him who allowed Himself to be confined for us in death in order to liberate us from slavery to our passions and our selfishness. He who ‘deconfines’ us with Himself outside of the tomb, allowing us to live a new normal with Him, for Him and for others.
So, ready for a return to normal life?
(1) Jonah 2:7,9
(2) Luke 15:17-20