My family pattern has been to have one set of local grandparents and one set of distant grandparents. My local grandparents had a powerful impact on my life, as did my dad’s live-in grandfather and my children’s Nampa grandparents. Relationships with our remote grandparents developed through letters, gift parcels in the mail, and rare visits – important but less robust. Having deep relationships with those I love most is a priority to me. I did not want to be a remote grandparent! I did not want to miss out on the adult years of my daughters and their husbands! So, thirteen years ago, while helping out after the birth of my only grandchild, I purchased a house, with the goal of returning to Idaho when I retired. My recent years in Nampa included outings, traditional holiday meals, planned events, and drop-in visits. It flowed. It was easy. It had become “typical”. It was what I had “expected”…….until 2020.
On March 25, 2021, I experienced “typical” with my granddaughter, for the first time in over a year. We were in my living room, just the two of us. She used a pattern, fabric, pins, scissors, a sewing machine, and an iron to create a craft project….something we had done before. It felt normal.
But it was different. I discovered how much she has changed in the past year. She is less cautious using the steam iron; her seams are straighter; she is now able to depress the reverse button on the sewing machine AND continue to sew at the same time. It was also different because her craft project was something that neither of us could have imagined 18 months ago – she was using pastel-colored fabric in an Easter motif to make face masks.
One year later, we both are the same but also different people. Our concentrated time together has been during long trips, the last of which was in 2019 when she was 11. By the time international travel is safe for us again, she will be 14 years old. I feel sad about the many moments in between that we have missed. And I know that the pandemic has led to permanent changes to how travel will occur in the future; it won’t be the same.
As our congregations approach return to indoor in-person worship, the concepts of traditional/typical/expected also apply. We long to get back to normal, but so much life has happened since we gathered in February 2020. Each of us is older. We have been changed by what we experienced during the pandemic. We are the same but different people. What science and medicine has taught us during the past year determines that some aspects of worship will be done differently. Worship will be the same but different. It will not feel “traditional” or “typical” or “expected”.
We are not the first to have our worlds turned upside down, longing to “get back to normal”, and facing the challenge of practicing our faith in new ways. Think of Jesus’ followers after His resurrection and ascension. Public worship at the temple was REPLACED BY secret worship in peoples’ homes. Quietly listening to the teachings of learned rabbis was REPLACED BY humble fishermen proclaiming the good news in public squares. The concrete action of ritual sacrifice to atone for sin was REPLACED BY the mystery of grace – this new atonement had been accomplished by the death of one man and was good for all believers for all of time. To Jesus’ followers, none of this would have felt “traditional” or “typical” or “expected”, but God equipped them to embrace and flourish in their “new normal”………….as He also desires to equip us to adapt to and even embrace our own “new normal”……remembering His promise to all his followers from Matthew 28:20 “…. and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Lord, help me to move through my sadness for that which has been lost – those things that were dear to me – the traditional and typical ways of doing things that I loved and had come to expect. Equip me to embrace the new opportunities awaiting me. Amen.