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Normal times and abnormal times

We live in strange times. Much is different due to coronavirus and the restrictions connected with preventing its spread. We tend to divide life into the time before corona, corana time and the time after corona. ”Everything” was different only a couple of months ago, and many hope that when the threat of corona eases things will not return to what they were but will improve – that we will radically change our lifestyles for the better.

     One positive side-effect of corona has been that it has brought people together, not physically, of course. People have been in touch with long-lost friends and relatives to catch up and share news. People have volunteered to look out for the lonely, the housebound, the aged – anyone for whom corona time might be particularly difficult. The same phenomenon happened during World War II. The British refer to the ”Spirit of the Blitz”: the German bombing attacks on London and the threat of invasion did not harm national morale but on the contrary strengthened it. People were united in their suffering. They forgot their differences and united to face the common enemy. The situation was similar in Finland: a country divided by social differences united in a common cause when faced by invasion. Old people still fondly remember the spirit of those times, despite all the suffering and death.

     Deep down we probably think of peace and plenty as normal, of wars, dearth (pula-aika), pandemics and similar as abnormal. This may be largely true of post-war Finland, but it is not true of many regions of the world or periods in history. Europe, and much of the world, was in constant upheaval in the early twentieth century what with two world wars, the Spanish influenza epidemic, the Great Depression, the rise of Communism, Fascisim and Nazism and the dearth that followed the war, a period in which the Cold War began and the inconceivable threat of nuclear annihilation arrived.  Anyone who was waiting for a return to normality in eg. 1930 was in for a long wait.

     The Israelites of biblical times were no strangers to exceptional times. Perhaps they thought of the period of the united Israel under David and Solomon as the normal time, as the ”real lsrael”, and all other periods as abnormal – slavery in Egypt, the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judea, foreign occupation by Babylonians, Macedonians and Romans. In fact the abnormal times are by far the most interesting and significant. God didn’t wait until eg. the Romans left Israel to act!

     It is important that we make decisions about our lives based on the time we live in, especially with regard to times of crisis or radical change in our own lives – periods of illness, moving house, changing jobs or career, marriage, becoming a parent, divorce, retiring, bereavement. It may be a mistake to postpone big decisions until after the abnormal period. (”We’ll get married after the war.” /  ”I’ll give up alcohol after the holiday.” / ”I’ll spend more time with my family when it’s less busy at work.” / ”I’ll get into religion when I retire.”) We cannot predict when things will get back to normal, or whether a new crisis will arise in place of the crisis that is over.

Chris Montgomery     

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