Friday, May 08, 2020


Many people are saying that life will not be the same when we come out of the Coronavirus lockdown. They are saying that we will not go back to the way we were. They are looking for a new normal.

I am not sure that this hope will be fulfilled. I doubt that four weeks is long enough to change deeply ingrained habits. I am not sure that staying at home for 5-6 weeks will bring about deep change in our lives. When the lockdown finishes, I suspect that most of us will rush back to life as it was before we were shut at home.

My father grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. His father died just when the depression was taking hold. His mother struggled to feed and clothe her five children and keep the farm going through a serious drought and the depression years. She worked hard to earn sufficient income from selling livestock for pitiful prices that prevailed so she could keep paying the interest on the mortgage, at a time when farmers all around were failing and being sold up and left homeless by the banks.

That experience scarred my father and changed his life in a significant way. Throughout his life, he would never go into debt. He would not buy anything unless he had saved the cash to pay for. When he was a farmer, he would never borrow seasonal finance from a stock firm, even though it would have helped him develop to his farm quicker, because he had seen these firms taking over all of a farmer’s income to cover their debt, and giving the family an allowance of few pounds a month to live on. The children of these farmers often had no shoes to wear to school.

I suspect that this experience produced more fear than faith. His faith was a dogged determination not to be overcome by fear, which is not really the basis for launching into something new and bold. It was later in life when my father had an overpowering experience of the Holy Spirit that he became a man of faith with boldness to do new and radical things for God.

A really traumatic experience over a long period to time can really change a person. However, I am not sure that five weeks at home can bring about that kind of deep change.

The problem is that being shut up at home with nothing to do encourages passivity. When there is nothing to do, it is easy to get comfortable doing nothing. There is nothing to do but wait for the season to end. This passivity does not gear people up to go into action and do something new when the lockdown is complete.

Life will change dramatically for some people, but these will be forced changes, not chosen ones. Many of those who have lost their employment or had the business they own fail will have their lives turned upside down. But that is nothing new. People have always been losing their jobs. Businesses have always failed. Only a minority of new businesses get beyond five years. The difference in the next few months is that vastly more people will be losing their employment or experiencing the failure of their businesses.

They will do what people have always done when they experience these disasters. They will cut back hard on their spending and search for a new job. They are unlikely to rush out and do something new in their social or religious life because they will be focussed on trying to restore their income.

I believe that the greatest prompter of change is the Holy Spirit. Deep change in our communities and our societies is far more likely to come through his work, than through a few weeks of inconvenience while stuck in our homes.

I don’t know how much the Holy Spirit has been moving in people’s hearts while they have had free time at work away from home. I am sure that a few have been pressing in and hearing him speak in their lives. But if people are filling in their spare time with hours of Netflix, he may not have been able to speak and move as he would like. What happens after the lockdown depends on what the Holy has been able to do. During the rest of the year, we will see if he has been able to move in the lives of his people and stir them up for his new normal.

When Jesus wanted to bring radical change in Judea, he formed 70 disciples into pairs and apostled them (sent) out in the surrounding towns and villages (Luke 10:1-11). In the current situation, God will do a new thing through people with an apostolic calling. What happens in the future will depend on how much the Holy Spirit has been able to prepare people to be apostled into new things for Jesus.

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