A recent article by Andy Crouch used the categories of Blizzard, Winter, and mini-Ice Age to describe the potential impact this pandemic is going to have on the church. Is this a short-term storm (blizzard)? Is this a long-term issue (winter)? Or is this the beginning of a new era (mini-Ice Age)? If you are like me, when the COVID scare started, I surmised that this situation would last for 6 weeks or 2 months, tops.
Then, we would be able to restart and resume life like before. I even naively thought that kids might be able to return to school in May. In other words, I thought this pandemic was a blizzard: a short storm where we would just need to hunker down until it blew over. But now, I have begun to realize that this is not a blizzard; at the very least, it is a winter.
Yes, stores and businesses are reopening, but with a new normal. Social distancing is still in place. Masks are recommended. Caution is still being observed. The reality is hitting us that this pandemic has not ended and it might be around for quite a while, like a winter. Dealing with winter is different than a blizzard. Blizzards produce panic-buying and isolation. We batten down the hatches, retreat, and wait for the storm to pass. But we cannot live like that for long. A blizzard brings a reaction to a crisis. But we cannot live in crisis-mode forever. Eventually, we have to settle into a routine. That is where we are. Now, we are faced with the prospect of trying to determine how do we live in a season of being under the shadow of COVID-19.
Maybe another analogy is entering another culture. If you have ever been on a short-term mission trip, you know the feeling of culture shock. You enter a new country that has a new language and new food and it shocks you. But those who are adventurous, you adapt quickly and you like the change. The food is intriguing, the language is fun, and the way of life is enlightening. But if you stay in that culture long-term, another wave of culture shock comes. It is deeper and stronger. Because then you realize, I really am not going back to my home country for quite some time and I’m missing it. I think we are in this second wave of culture shock. We realize that we are not going back to our old normal for quite some time and we become burdened by that and we struggle. How do we handle that? Certainly keeping ourselves anchored in key biblical truths about who we are and how God has called us to live is important. Worship, Bible study, prayer, and church community are just as important as before. But also, we need to adopt new habits.
To survive in a winter, one has to learn to pivot, or shift to a new set of behaviors. Like when winter comes, I change out my shorts and t-shirts for sweaters and long pants. I pivot. I adapt. So we too must collectively do the same. We must find new habits of interacting with one another, growing in Christ, teaching our kids that will not just last for a few weeks but for several months. The beauty in pivoting is that we learn new things. Priorities shift. New hobbies emerge. And we grow as people.
I heard Tim Keller describe it as “resilience without stoicism.” We don’t suppress our disappointment that this pandemic continues. We allow ourselves to feel but we don’t stay in a place of disappointment. We get up. We change. Because God is present in our blizzards and winters. When we open ourselves up to Him, He renews us and helps us to thrive in whatever season we are in.