Many of us (perhaps most of us) have seen the epic 1939 classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy. Dorothy lives with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em on the great Kansas prairie and after going to see a charlatan named Professor Marvel, she heads back to the farm ahead of a big twisting tornado. As the wind gets stronger and the storm bears down, Dorothy reaches the farmhouse and hope for safety and finds no one in the house because everyone on the farm is already in the storm cellar and they don’t hear her knocking on the door. So, she returns to the house to try to weather the storm.
In the movie the house is caught up in the whirlwind and survives with Dorothy and her dog, Toto, inside. When it seems safe to go outside, Dorothy picks up Toto but the world outside her door is not the prairie farmland she knew. Though she has not yet determined where she is, she knows this is quite different and says the famous line, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” She has yet to discover how drastically different the magical place is and yet it seems lovely on the face of it and off she goes exploring. It will be much later that she discovers “there’s no place like home” and wakes up in the house in Kansas.
Things change after a storm and its destruction comes upon us and if we survive, our great hope is for life to get back to “normal” and be “good” again. We long for it like someone parched and thirsty longs for a tall glass of water.
We were going along in our busy lives that were what we considered “normal” when suddenly in 2020 we entered the worldwide pandemic resulting in a longer time than we first expected of losses, isolation, tension, and uncertainty. The world had known such times before, but this type of experience was new for most of us. Everything we enjoyed, worked at, relaxed around, and did as our own lifestyle came to a halt. Numbers of days we were told would be needed to be safe enough to return to “normal” kept changing and anxiety about the pandemic grew while we were dealing with new things like how to buy food, do our jobs, and school our children. We were also dealing with other challenges that weren’t caused by the pandemic, but we needed to handle them differently or weather them alone because of the pandemic restrictions.
Now, in 2022, we are still looking and trying to find the life we knew before the pandemic arrived and we’re beginning to discover changes in us that came from that day when life changed in 2020.
In 2021 Ed Yong won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the pandemic. Here are just a few lines of what he observed:
“Millions have endured a year of grief, anxiety, isolation, and rolling trauma. Some will recover uneventfully, but for others, the quiet moments after adrenaline fades and normalcy resumes may be unexpectedly punishing. When they finally get a chance to exhale, their breaths may emerge as sighs.”Ed Yong
Each of us may well be in a different place in the summer of 2022, but our willingness to spend more money than ever in the midst of high inflation and soaring fuel costs testify to our desire for vacations like we had before 2020 despite the cost. Whether we have gone to a movie theater, a restaurant or a mall, our church service, a family trip, or something else, many of us still seem to bear the impact of the pandemic.
What we may have missed is that we are designed to handle a crisis most of the time. Adrenaline kicks in and we do what we need to do to manage as best we can. Many of us know, have read, or spoken with a doctor or counselor who will tell us it is after the main part of the crisis is over that the biggest impact will hit us. If the crisis has been lengthy, we dig deep into our reserves to handle it and little by little the weariness seeps in despite our best efforts to have life feel “normal” or “good” again.
“One of the most remarkable things about human beings is how resilient we can be. Yet one of the most surprising things about human beings is how all that resilience can evaporate in a moment.”John Eldredge
Many of us (perhaps most of us) have rallied now in 2022, but we are also using reserves each time we do that, and it is vital for us to replenish those resources within us before another crisis comes along.
The enemy of our souls knows this. He has always known how to play “the long game” and we often miss that. He wants to wear down the believers and scripture warns of that wearing down. He fears us if our reserves are plentiful and we are in touch with the power God has given us to overcome, but if he can wear us down he hopes he may trip us up. Research is starting to collect evidence of that wearing down. Many have dropped out of church and even work. Anxiety remains for many. Students learning in isolation virtually show deficits in their academics and increased anxiety, drug use, and suicide. And now we face the truth – the battle is for our hearts.
“The great alarm the Scriptures are sounding is that our longing for life to be good again will be the battleground for our heart. How you shepherd this precious longing, and if you shepherd it at all, will determine your fate in this life and the life to come.”John Eldredge
A vacation (if possible) may seem to help refresh us, but often we discover the process of getting there and back wears us out. What we need can only be found by going into the deep places of our hearts and allowing God to replenish our resilience. The shepherd of our souls is inviting us to invite Him into those places within us seeking life to be “normal” again. Therein lays our hope.