Something old, something new.
Up front the trendy cultural term "new normal" seemed shallow. Though I had heard the term many times over the years deeper contemplation of it was in the aftermath of our son's death in 2011. When some well meaning friend tossed "new normal" at our family it resembled some of the greeting card sentiment we humans use to guide us through hard times. In counseling one day Dr. Chip Green, Director of the Northwood Community Counseling Center, reminded me that normal is a setting on most washing machines. Defining what is normal in life depends on every person's perspective. Corn flakes and milk may be normal for one person and an aberration to another. Harriet, Liz, Katherine, and I, and our entire family knew that life wouldn't be normal again for us since Brian's murder. Perhaps viewing the idea of "new normal" through the lens of sorrow, grief, or any tragic experience isn't the best observation point. At the time "new normal" seemed a gloss-over.
In our seventh year since his death the truth of "new normal" is more apparent. And, don't get me started on the seven thing, you know, the biblical repetitions and meaning of the number seven. Maybe after seven years his death and absence from our lives has become a settled fixture in our world. There's truth that grief doesn't have a count-down clock and that his absence will always be sorrowful to us. But, as our dad, The Chester, always said: "life goes on". So, suddenly "new normal" makes more sense.
Scripture repeatedly mentions the new life dimension of the empty tomb. Because Christ was raised from the dead believers have the promise of life eternal and the abundant life in the here and now. There's rich imagery in this Scriptural vein--- the new creation with the passing of the old and the coming of the new (see 2 Corinthians 5: 17, ESV; the putting off of our old self and the putting on of the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24, ESV); being buried with him in baptism and being raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4, ESV); and many others. They are affirmations of what Simon Peter knew and wrote---
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he
has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3, ESV
When believers enter the mean streets of every day life something new is added to that setting---salt and light to season and brighten that world with the newness that is central to biblical faith. Of course, there's something old there too. Personal faith changes us and gives us new hope, peace, joy, and, if genuine, the mind of Christ. Just the same, that new creation intersects that same old world every day. Most believers don't enter the cloister, live in a closet, or answer God's call to ministry or mission. These new creations hear the alarm clock every morning, commute to work, care for households and children, taxi the young ones to every imaginable sport or activity, and occupy places of influence in every segment of that same old, same old. Like it or not, we have to leave the mountaintops and plunge back into a world that is normal.
Voila! The "new normal"! This new creation is able to influence that normal world through the spiritual giftedness bestowed by God at new birth. Sure, every believer should be able to verbally explain the reason for the hope that defines us
(see 1 Peter 3: 15, ESV). The influence of a Christ-centered life, however, is the authentic way something new can challenge something old. It's the real "new normal", not the counterfeit I imagined seven years ago.
Even more, this new creation is introduced to the life of faith and the spiritual disciplines that produce fruit for living that normal life in a new way. I mean, think about it. How would that old, worn, normal world be blessed or changed when every one of us deposits love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5: 22-23, ESV) into it every day? It's the power of the new over the old.
It's what happens when that normal world is exposed to the new creation. And, that, old buddy, is how little old me can influence and navigate the normal world. So, if I scowled at you seven years ago when you counseled me about discovering the "new normal", please forgive me. Sometimes, and more often than I'd like, that old normal world overlays this new creation and dictates the day, a reversal of genuine biblical influence.
Back to normal after another blessed experience of the empty tomb? Not hardly. But, the "new normal" most assuredly.