The New Normal
The New Normal
by The Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO | Archbishop
What is Lent?
Is it six inconvenient weeks for me to give up chocolate or alcohol or gossip, before I go back to my usual patterns? Definitely not! Rather, it’s time for me to attentively and with purpose allow something new to show itself in my following of Jesus.
Christian life is about constantly growing into the new normal. There is never any going ‘back to normal’. There is only going forward, growing into the fullness of maturity in Christ. Classic Christian spiritual writers have told us again and again that being disciples of Jesus means being on an ongoing journey of conversion. Living in Christ means recognising our sin, taking it prayerfully to the cross, seeking forgiveness and receiving it, and then travelling on, into the ‘new normal’.
What is this going to look like, for individuals and for our Church community? For an individual, it might look like putting more trust in God, and carrying less anxiety about what we have to do please God or be good enough.
It might mean living more honestly with the heaviness of grief. There is a lot of grief in the world, from the devastating hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths, to the stories of failure in aged care right here in Australia, to the ache of not having been able to visit the family and friends we love for more than 12 months now. Not to mention the grief we feel over our own shortcomings. All this grief can’t be held at bay forever. I need to lower my defences and engage with it. It is something like a eucalyptus shedding back in order to keep growing well. The stories of Holy Week are coming up, to help with this difficult project of living honestly with grief. What is Lent for, if not for this?
For our church community, the new normal will look something like what I am seeing around our Diocese, where parishes are talking enthusiastically together about ways of collaborating so that they can flourish. This work began during last year’s lockdown, and has now grown to the point where parishes are identifying what they need, so that we can all grow into the new normal. Three years ago, after my listening to people across the diocese, I heard some of us say ‘we feel old, tired and useless’. This was not a normal anyone would want to go back to. Now, we are asking different questions, and feeling different about the answers. What might we be able to do together? What resources can we share? How are we engaged in our communities? What have we learnt from the past year that we can build on? Our new normal includes feeling more positive about who we are.
So what is Lent about?
It is about opening our ears, hearts, minds to the unexpected ways in which God calls us towards a new normal. It is about allowing ourselves to be shaken enough by the Father’s love that something new can get through. No complacency; just shaking, re-ordering, transformation; and receiving it, trustingly, as Good News.