This summer, I have been thinking about changes that have occurred during the different seasons of my life. Of course, I have also been present for the changes in the lives of the kids and Janet has gone through her own set of changes and challenges as well.
I have come to the conclusion that most of us, myself included, don’t really give enough thought to the idea of embracing what I have come to refer to as “a new normal.” What I mean is that when things happen, and there are plenty of changes that happen in our lives, we usually wonder when things will return to normal. If we are sick, we think about recovery, if we are in school, we think about summer vacation, when we are away, we think about being back home in a familiar surrounding (especially at the holidays) but we mostly think about patterns in our lives that are familiar and reliable.
But what happens in those times when there isn’t a return to “normal?” Throughout my professional career, I’ve dealt with people who have been surprised at one time or another with the loss of a job. They wonder when they will “recover” and make up for the lost time that they were out of the workforce. But what if they never find another job that pays as well, or has the hours or shift they prefer to work, or is in the location they want? Well, they are faced with the reality of trying to understand a “new normal…”
That’s when we realize that life probably won’t look the same familiar way as we go forward. When I left the workforce to attend seminary back in 2000, I didn’t realize that I would experience a new normal… my life would never be the same after almost 10 years in seminary.
When I re-entered the workforce with my advanced degrees I didn’t realize that the problems I would be asked to speak in to would be an entirely different experience than I had ever had before – a “new normal…” And certainly the most profound eye opening event for me was when I stopped working full time and had to deal with the reality that retirement was on the horizon. No longer would I dress in a suit and tie each day – or have a staff to lead. I would be doing my own thing – a time in life when I would hopefully enjoy the freedom that partial retirement offered. I’m still exploring what a “new normal” looks like…
When I ruptured my right quad tendon five years ago, I thought I would make a full recovery. I almost made it, but not quite. I had to become accustomed to a “new normal” – a physical limitation that would never allow me the strength and mobility that I had before my accidental fall.
I have come to realize, in my more reflective moments, that I must embrace all these “new normals” or I am going to be one unhappy person. I’m not saying that we should “settle” but I do think that God has a plan for each of us and we must do the best that we can in the events and seasons of life that we are experiencing. As I look back on my own life, I haven’t done this very well.
This year I have been confronted with life events that have really caused me to slow down, extend grace to others and myself, realizing that life is a constant series of “new normals.” I will try to do a better job accepting change – both within myself and recognizing the changes in others.
Our verse for tonight comes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. The prophet reminds us that there are changes in life and we should look ahead to embrace these changes. He tells us, in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Now that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t appreciate the past but we are commanded to look forward.
This is especially true when we face uncertain times. My encouragement this evening is that Jesus is the only thing that remains the same. As the author of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” What a comforting thought, as it is clear that we, as humans, are constantly changing.
My prayer is that as we age and go through constant adaptations in our lives, we will embrace the certainly of an eternity with Christ. In the meantime, I pray that we will allow ourselves to embrace the inevitable things that will transform us until we come face to face with our Savior. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…