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Readjusting to life after lockdown

What was the legacy of Covid-19 for you? Did you get yourself a dog to keep you company in the absence of human contact? Did you find other things to do on a Sunday morning and find it difficult to get back into the routine of in-person services? Did your mental health take a knock and leave you anxious meeting people face-to-face?

Getting a bit more personal, did you find sexual temptation harder during lockdown? Or was it harder once you returned to regular human contact? Lockdown might have been challenging because of increased isolation, loneliness, lack of accountability and more time to go down rabbit holes with social media browsing and, perhaps, pornography. On the other hand, a return to normality might have been tough as you once more came across attractive people in the flesh! So both Covid and ‘normal life’ had their challenges for many people. 

Astronauts know what it is like to be cut off from conventional life for a season. NASA astronaut Christina Koch returned to earth on 6th February 2020, having spent 328 days in space. Hers was the most extended single stay in space for a woman. Just as she was returning to earth, the rest of the world was waking up to a global pandemic that would leave much of its population disconnected from their usual life for the coming two years. What can we learn from Christina’s return to everyday life that might help us adjust after our experiences of multiple lockdowns?

Wasting away

Living in microgravity on the International Space Station (ISS) meant that up to 20% of muscle disappeared from the human body during the first week. To counter this, astronauts need to exercise for two hours daily to maintain their strength, as they miss the constant workout offered by the earth’s gravity. Likewise, we should ask ourselves whether we’ve lost spiritual muscle as we’ve floated around over the last few years, away from the spiritual workout that church fellowship requires. The Message Translation says: “Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please!” (1 Tim 4:8). We might need to get back into good spiritual disciplines and ask others to hold ourselves accountable once more.

As we return to normality, we face choices that once seemed simple. 

Different rhythms

The sun rises and sets 16 times each day as the ISS orbits the earth. In contrast,  earth dwellers experience the sun rising and setting once per day, as God established in creation (Gen 1:14-19). So, coming back to regular church meetings and perhaps physically travelling to our workplaces again, has changed our rhythms. This can be hard if we’ve found that we quite like “doing church” in our pyjamas, or catching up with the sermon online after a Sunday morning run/lie-in (delete as applicable!)
But church is not just about us as individuals. The writer to the Hebrews encourages us to “…consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). As we re-establish healthy rhythms, this is an opportunity to let the Bible calibrate our daily and weekly patterns so that they align with our Creator’s intentions and the needs of our fellow Christians.

More choice

Do you remember Boris Johnson’s announcement on 23rd March 2020, “You must stay at home”? There was no choice, and it was followed by many rules we had to obey. Similarly, when Christina Koch was resident on the ISS, her schedule, food and clothes were all planned for her. Towards the end of her 328 days in space, the prospect of simple tasks back on earth daunted her, such as choosing groceries at the supermarket. However, she was also  excited by the prospect of choosing her outfit for the day , as well as not having to eat food from out of a packet!

As we return to normality, we face choices that once seemed simple. With whom shall I sit at church this morning? Shall I invite people around for a meal? If I’ve got a cough, should I still go to work? Thankfully, our God cares about the daily concerns we have, and Jesus calls us not to worry but “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33). When we shift our focus to our heavenly Father, we find He takes care of the small details of our lives along the way.

Lost time

Clearly, Christina Koch had an enviable experience living on the ISS for almost a year. But she also recognised she’d missed out, “Time on earth has marched on without me. I’ve missed anniversaries, birthdays, funerals, graduations, holidays.” We, too, may have missed out on special times with others. Nephews and nieces have grown up, and we have got older. Friendships may have drifted. Whilst we may have fond memories of times during the Covid pandemic, there may also be a sense of loss.
Thankfully, God’s Word reminds us that experiences and achievements that are purely of this world are meaningless in the light of eternity. Of lasting value is to “remember your Creator… before the days of trouble come” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). We will have all the time in the (new) world to enjoy God and His renewed creation, so we can relax about missing out on the things this world would prize.

Up to the heavens

Finally, we can take encouragement from the truth that our churches on earth are only one dimension of how we gather to worship. As well as meeting in local congregations, God has already “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6).
Christina Koch may look up to the heavens to glimpse the ISS, her former home. But, as Christians, we can look higher for our true home in the heavenly realms and rejoice.

This article was originally published in the summer 2022 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.

Download the summer 2022 edition of Ascend