by Sheila Keedy
Over the last few weeks I have said and keep hearing from others, “It will be so good when things return to normal.” Family dinners, church gatherings and meeting with friends are just a few of the things I am sure we all look forward to enjoying again.
In reality, things may return to normal but then again maybe they won’t. We already have new words in our vocabulary like “social distancing” for example! So the question that keeps tugging on my heart and mind is, do I really want things to return to normal?
Normal, before the quarantine, seems to be a blur. Hectic schedules driving us at a frenzied pace. Parents feeding kids across the back seat of the car on the way to the next event and many of us falling into bed at night exhausted from the demands of work and activities. Time to read and study God’s Word marginalized against other things we make a priority.
Over the last few weeks, it has been such a delight to see moms and daughters riding bikes together, dads and sons playing basketball in their driveway, and couples walking around the neighborhood. We have enjoyed talking across the yards to neighbors and worshiping together from our driveways – socially distanced of course! More than anything, I have loved unhurried time with the Lord in the mornings.
So which of those “normals” do I really want to go back to?
These times remind me of Israel’s journey as Moses led them out of Egypt. God was testing, yet also preparing them for their Promised Land. They experienced God’s presence, saw His mighty hand at work through miracles and provision over and over again. Yet, over and over again, they would get discouraged and complain, wanting to go back to Egypt.
Numbers 11:4-5 And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
They wanted things to return to normal. God was preparing them for a new normal.
Several times in my life I have been on a difficult journey and just wanted to go back home where things were expected and convenient. One specific time stands out the most – spending over four months in the country of Venezuela.
In the fall of 1983, my husband was invited to play Winter Ball in Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela. We prayed and believed God had opened this door and we were excited to walk through it. At that point in his professional baseball career, it was a great opportunity for many reasons. So off we went with our “English to Spanish” translation book tucked in our luggage.
When a player was sent to Winter Ball, their length of stay depended on how well they played. After the first two weeks of struggling and almost being sent home, Pat hit a homerun. It wasn’t just any homerun – it clinched a game against an area rival and he almost became a national hero! We were in it now for the long haul. No matter how difficult the situation or how homesick we became, we were going to be there through the New Year.
Our home away from home was a large hotel room with plenty of fresh air as the air conditioner only worked about half the time. (Just know we were close to the Equator!) My refrigerator was a Styrofoam cooler where the ice melted faster than we could load it in there. (Did I mention the Equator?) Our kitchen appliance was an electric skillet that popped some really good popcorn; the “manna” of choice as the food in the grocery store was usually outdated, sometimes by years. The option to buy cow eyes in the meat market was enough to help my satisfaction with our salty sustenance. The language barrier wasn’t too bad except when I almost got eggs in my water instead of ice getting the two words mixed up in my request!
As our journey continued, we began to see some difficult things – the unrest in their government, extreme poverty, and odd things that were really out of place for us like military soldiers in full battle gear stationed all around the baseball field with guns ready. I think our biggest struggle came in not being with family during the holidays and just missing the comforts of home. By the end of the first month, the adventure wore off and we were ready to pack up and head back home.
As God would have it, things slowly but surely changed. (Or was He changing us?)
Most of the baseball games were at night, so with no television or a car to go anywhere we had plenty of time each day to read the Bible. We would then talk for hours about what we had read. We were only two years into our marriage and a foundation of trusting the Lord and each other was being established.
We became close to teammates and their wives as we found ways to meet for Bible Study. The opportunity to share our fears increased our faith as we prayed together and saw God move in so many situations.
An American missionary family made contact with us and provided a place to worship each week in the small church they pastored. It was a bilingual service so we could hear God’s Word in our own language. It also gave us the opportunity to share our testimonies with the local people and that helped many of us in our courage to share our faith. The men naturally connected with the players, but it was such a blessing to connect with the women who were wives and mothers just like us.
I learned to cross-stitch, fashioned our first Christmas tree out of felt to hang on our hotel room wall, visited a candle factory where wax ornaments were being made that told the story of Jesus’ birth, saw amazing poinsettia trees, and watched local women make the most beautiful tapestries. Not wanting to forget any of the things happening, I began to journal. What started as journaling day-to-day experiences soon became testimonies of God moments that continues to this day, thirty-seven years and over forty journals later.
Looking back now, going home early would have been a mistake. Giving in to inconvenience and the unknown wouldn’t have allowed us to experience God’s presence, His provision, seeing Him heal and restore. Most importantly, it wouldn’t have allowed for Him to change things in us that needed changing.
Don’t get me wrong; I was very glad when we did go home! Hugging my family, listening to their voices, sleeping in my own bed, and drinking all the clean water I wanted was a privilege not taken for granted. But, how much sweeter was it all because of the journey we had been on.
So, is wanting things to return to normal a good thing? In some respects, maybe so. But what if, during this time, we seize these moments seeking God with all our heart, soul and mind and ask Him what to continue, what to cut out, what to change? Instead of just waiting for the quarantine to be lifted and things to return to normal, allow God to show you how He would like to prepare you for maybe a new normal.
Consider these things with me:
- Do you really want to live at the same pace that you were living before the quarantine?
- What daily plans need adjusting to prioritize time in Scripture and in prayer?
- Are there things you thought you couldn’t live without that may have become an idol?
- Do you need to extend love, kindness and/or forgiveness to someone?
- How can you serve your community instead of your calendars?
When it’s over, what will you go back to? Let’s not return to Egypt.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”— I Corinthians 2:9