“A New Future and New Hope”
“GG! We need help,” my grandson yelled from upstairs. I ran upstairs. Ok, so I actually climbed the stairs as quickly as my 60-something knees would allow. GG is my grandchildren’s nickname for me. It stands for Goofy Grandma. I do my best to live up to the name.
At the top of the stairs I discovered what my grandchildren needed me for was to settle an argument about who would clean up dog poop. “I didn’t want to do it, so she did, and now she’s crying,” confessed my grandson. Even though he had no intention of cleaning up the mess, he never intended for his little sister to start crying. So, I fulfilled my usual role as peacekeeper between the two of them and then went back to my “mother-in-law” quarters to finish my prayer time. As I settled back into my comfy chair I prayed, “Thank you God for ‘normal’ problems.” It had occurred to me that in the midst of all the chaos around us, it is perfectly normal for two siblings to squabble. And I was truly grateful. As a counselor, so often the problems I listen to are far more complicated than this.
That has been especially true since we all went into shutdown mode last March. In the middle of March, I snapped this picture when I was shopping at Walmart.
At the time, I thought empty toilet paper shelves at Walmart were just as historic as the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl the month before. The empty shelves made it clear that we were heading into a season far from the “normal” any of us were used to.
Along with encountering empty shelves, I had to do some research and figure out how to carry out the task of counseling from home. In order to prepare a private space, I asked my granddaughter to create a sign for my “office” door. I even spelled out the words, “Do Not Disturb” for her. She’s very artistic so I was expecting a creative design to soften the warning. Instead, here is the sign she created for me. It still hangs on the door warning intruders to stay away from the office when GG is at work.
That was all back in March. This is October and we are still in the midst of a pandemic that has most likely changed our “normal” forever. I discovered another visual image of this when my granddaughter needed her winter coat before heading to the bus stop. Next to the closet door hung this.
Where keys used to hang, the family masks now reside. There’s one hook for the grownups and each child has a hook. At the end of the day, all masks are deposited in a sweater bag in the laundry room to be washed over the weekend. It’s our “New Normal.” I call it a “New Normal” because it has gradually sunk in that masks may somehow be a part of our lives going forward. Even when this particular pandemic subsides, we now know how effective masks are at preventing the spread of viruses. Will we ever really live without them again?
There is sadness and grief in this thought. There is also hope. The hope is that we will have a future. It may be different from what we knew prior to January 1, 2020. Still, it is a future.
As I embraced the possibility of a new normal, my thoughts turned to the prophet Jeremiah. He was a prophet around 600 B.C. His message was for the Israelites at the time of their captivity in Babylon. His message is in the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament right between the book of Isaiah and the book of Lamentations. While other prophets during this time were predicting that God would quickly rescue the Israelites from Babylon, Jeremiah had a very different message. Instead of reassuring his people that they would soon be set free so be ready to go home, Jeremiah told them to build houses, start a family, settle in because you are going to be here for 70 years. Imagine 70 years of captivity in a foreign land. It’s a lot like imagining 6 more months of coronavirus!
Just like my granddaughter’s “Get Out” sign, Jeremiah does not soft pedal his warning to the Israelites. He scolds them for treasuring wisdom, wealth and power more than they treasure their relationship with God. He makes it quite clear that God is more interested in relationship. It is in that relationship that we find our hope even today. For Jeremiah let the people know that God had plans for them. In chapter 29:11 he encourages the Israelites with these words: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (NRSV)
Our “New Normal” may not be the future we would have chosen for ourselves any more than a widow chooses to lose her spouse. Loss is a part of life that we cannot avoid. Forgive me for not soft pedaling that message. I am blessed as a counselor though to have watched countless people mourn their loss and then embrace a “new normal.” They weep. They learn. They grow. Their relationship with God deepens. They rise again to a new life. A new normal.
Life will change for us. There are lessons to be learned. There is a God waiting for us to enter into a relationship with Him, or to deepen the relationship we already have with Him. Even the disciple Peter appears to echo Jeremiah’s message hundreds of years later. Near the end of the New Testament, in 1 Peter 5:10, he encourages the early Christians with these words: “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (NIV)
It is in that relationship we discover a future and a hope.
Speaking of the future, this week I am on vacation and spending time with my 90-year-old mother who is recovering from her hip surgery. I look forward to coming back with some stories about the Foundations of my Faith.
May your relationship with God bring you a New Future and New Hope.