Oct 30, 2020

Not Normal, But Good

By Leah Sherman




Back in January, our lives were busy. Many of us had carefully curated our routines to ensure that every family member was delivered to each appointment, activity, or party in a timely-ish manner. Our schedules were packed so tightly we struggled to fit in one more thing. Parents and children alike were worn out by the end of the day. As mothers, we had little time or energy to consider cooking for our families, so we out-sourced our meals and served them to our children who were strapped in their respective seats in the car, all while moving forward to the next item on the agenda. Perhaps those napkins with charming conversation starters made it into our homes with the best of intentions, but such whimsy requires both people to be present, and substantial time for conversations to become an opportunity to actually learn about one another; neither of which we had in all our rushing around.


Perhaps you enjoyed the hours of school at home alone.  You had the time to fold the laundry and mop the floors while watching the shows you enjoyed, or exercise to the music of your choice. Close friends met you at the coffee shop for a chat, and you did your grocery shopping peaceably before collecting the kids and rushing home for dinner and homework and basketball.


Whatever your normal was, odds are, it’s gone. All that we did—playdates, gymnastics, piano lessons, plays, work meetings, hair appointments, dinners out, coffee dates, church—all of it—ended. And we were forced to sit at our own kitchen tables each night with our whimsical napkins trying to cheer us up. 


Maybe your normal wasn’t quite that. Maybe you had that coveted quiet time between dropping the kids off for school and the commute to work. Your office was a place where you could accomplish tasks without constant interruptions.  You enjoyed talking with your coworkers in person and collaborating on projects; and by the end of the day, you left feeling accomplished, and thankful you had friends and family who could keep the kids a couple extra hours so you could meet your deadlines. 


All these months later, normal still hasn’t returned. Surely some of our rushing kids around and meeting with coworkers and friends has started again, but it’s still a dim reflection of what we once had, and mostly feels false.


Whatever your normal was, take a moment to consider it. Then,

“consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments. Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deed? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?” (Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism, “Confession.”)

Was your normal good?


I fear the answer for many of us must be no. It was not all good. And while what we are living through right now is also not very good, our old normal is not something we ought to desire. Much of our life was lived to self alone, and not in love and service to our neighbor. We created a pattern for our lives that left us exhausted and frustrated with the family members God had given us, and while we bemoaned the craziness of our schedules, we saw no way to fix the problems our desire to do and achieve had created. 


Our rush and hurry to give our children every opportunity our money could afford often robbed them of the attention they needed from us, their parents. Our inability to communicate with our spouses left us seeking understanding in relationships outside the home, or in the hazy blue-light of our screens. Our obsession with self-fulfillment left us little time to care for those in need in our church or neighborhood. We blamed our kids, our spouses, and our finances for the physical and emotional mess we were in.
Yes, consider your place in life. Was your normal good? 


But also, consider this new normal. Are parts of your new normal good? 


Certainly there are real, exhausting, hair-pulling frustrations with our current situation.  There are serious health and financial concerns. We are still yelling and crying and blaming and whining. 


But, is there any good? Can there be any good?


“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28; ESV)


In the midst of all the upheaval and confusion, see God at work in your lives. Your spouse, your children, your parents, and your neighbors are gifts from God, and you are being called to serve them in new ways. As you are learning to care for them, look for the ways God is working for good. Perhaps you find you enjoy knowing what your children are taught daily. Perhaps you realize working from home, while challenging, gives you a chance to complete a few extra chores. Perhaps your free time allows for you to write, call, or pray for your friends and family. And perhaps, as those silly napkins of ours are getting a workout like never before, we find that sitting down to a home-cooked meal is something our families have needed, and truly is a good gift from God.

***

Leah Sherman is a pastor's wife and homeschooling mother.  She and her husband have struggled with secondary infertility, but are constantly reminded of God's great blessings through their son. She lives in Gordon, Nebraska, and enjoys reading, gardening, and sewing.



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