As the nation slowly lifts its restrictions, there is a conflict going on in the hearts of many people. While many are tired of the lockdowns and rejoice at the thought of going to work, getting out to see friends, sitting in a restaurant, going shopping, and even gathering at church, many of those same people are experiencing anxiety about life returning to normal. Why is that? The answer that is not what you would expect.
The reason many people are feeling anxious about life returning to normal has nothing to do with the threat of COVID-19. Even when they look further into the future when the coronavirus threat is gone completely, their hearts still shiver at the thought of going back to the way things were.
Though many people have personally experienced economic distress, been rightly concerned about government overreach, and have dealt with the emotional fallout due to the lack of face-to-face human interaction, there are aspects of this cultural slowdown that many people have enjoyed.
It is possible to hate every negative aspect listed above and yet still unselfishly enjoy the fact that you now have more time with your family. It is no contradiction to detest the economic decline and at the same time to feel stress levels drop when you drive because the freeways are clear, and you are now able to get to your destination in half the time. It is even possible to feel the emotional toll on your children when they cannot participate in the activities they love and still find relief that you can enjoy your weekend without having to be in five different places on Saturday.
Though these benefits of the pandemic lockdown certainly have not outweighed the costs, the current cultural slowdown has many people reexamining their lives and asking the question, “What kind of life do I want to live when this is all over?” The thought of “everything” going back to normal can be a cause of concern for many people.
The way through this anxiety is to consider carefully what to let back in your life and what to discard. As we bring each piece of our old life back into play, we need to ask ourselves, what price am I willing to pay for the reward this gives me. Most activities will require little thought. Going back to work, being active in your church, and a host of other things will, and should, be embraced with open arms. However, for example, maybe Sunday should only be reserved for worship, family, and friends. Perhaps we were created to have a day of rest, and part of the anxiety we feel at the thought of going back to the way things were, stems from the fact that we had abandoned that practice. Maybe human flourishing happens best when we have a day of rest each week.
If our lives were so busy that we did not have time to enjoy our families or to pause and reflect, going back to “normal” is certainly not healthy. Some people were so overloaded they never had time to consider the purpose of it all until now. As we add pieces back into our lives, it is perfectly acceptable to leave unnecessary activity out if it adds little value to your life yet contributes to your exhaustion. It is not only acceptable, it is the right thing to do.
As authorities lift restrictions, now is the perfect time to ask ourselves, “What kind of life do I want to live?” As Christians, self-examination is an essential discipline of our spiritual lives. We are called continually, and especially on the Lord’s Day, to pause and realign our lives to God’s design for us. Maybe realizing we have permission to live a less-frantic life, even when all this is over, will calm the misgivings that arise at the thought of the lockdowns ending.
Hectic lives are often the result of having too many targets we are trying to hit; too many masters we are trying to please. As Jesus said, we are not able to serve more than one master (Matt. 6:24). My prayer is that during the weeks of quarantine, the Lord has reminded us all that there is only one worthy calling, and that is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Whatever does not tend toward this glorious end in our lives is expendable.