Navigating Your New Normal
About the Guest
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With COVID-19 we’re all in uncharted territory. Brian Goins and Ron Deal offer us a compass for navigating this frightening new normal. Listen as Brian and Ron talk about the four points of the compass beginning with finding true north in God, on FamilyLife Today.
Navigating Your New Normal
Bob: This is Bob Lepine from FamilyLife Today. We want to welcome you to today’s edition of our program, a special edition of the program as we are preempting what we had planned for today. Let me just point out, if you’d like to listen to the conclusion of the three-day conversation we’ve been having this week with Dave Willis, that program is available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can go and hear day three of our series with Dave Willis on raising boys who respect girls. I’d encourage you to do that; it’s good content.
We want to talk today about what we're all talking about—and that is the current situation—the pandemic that we’re dealing with in our world. Dave and Ann Wilson are with me today. They’re with me—but we’re keeping more than six-feet separation—You guys are in Detroit and joining us remotely today; right?
Dave: We are definitely keeping the physical distancing at a looong distance, and we’ve got snow—
Dave: —in our front yard right now.
Bob: The governor in your state did what the governor in California, and New York, and Illinois has done and called for a lockdown for the state of Michigan.
Ann: Yes, we are on total lockdown.
Bob: I imagine other states are going to follow that lead, especially as outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to multiply.
We thought it’s important for our listeners to be reminded of where we find balance in times when we are disrupted. I mean, you stop and think of the level of disruption, this week feels completely different from how we were living three weeks ago.
Ann: —or how we’ve ever lived, Bob.
Bob: Yes, that's right.
Dave: It’s a scary time for everybody. I was just on a phone call, talking about leading a church, and giving, and people losing jobs. It’s just a different, unprecedented time that we’re living in right now.
Bob: When we face times like this, we’ve got to go back to the foundation of our life; and that is our trust in God and our confidence that He is in control. That’s where we’re going to get pointed today. Ron Deal and Brian Goins, who are both a part of the team, here at FamilyLife®, got together last week and produced a video that we released on Facebook® Live and on YouTube last week. It’s a video where they talked about navigating the new normal.
Brian is the Vice President of Content, here at FamilyLife. He’s a graduate of Dallas Seminary; worked as a pastor for years before joining the team here at FamilyLife. He and his wife, Jen, speak at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. Ron, of course, gives leadership to FamilyLife Blended® and is an author and a speaker. Ron is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, so he deals with a wide variety of marriage and family issues.
We thought it would be good for our listeners to hear what the two of them talked about as they provided counsel for all of us, as couples and as families, about how we move through these times and how we find our bearing when it feels like the tectonic plates keep shifting on us.
Ron: When you’re in unchartered territory, it’s good to have a compass; so we’re going to talk about the four points on the compass. True north, that's number one. We’ve got to always remember where true north is. We’ve got to sort through our fear and pain or things will go south pretty quickly. We’ve got to establish new rhythms to life, and we’ve got to try to walk in love and look for the opportunities to be salt and light in the world.
Brian: Right. Alright, Ron, I want to talk about the first one. This first compass point: “Remember where true north is.” How do we get that perspective?
Ron: You know, times like this are really recalibrating to all of us. What I mean by that is we realize how small we are: we realize how out of control we are, how inadequate we are. We have all these artificial anchors in life—my job, my routine, how life is supposed to go—all of that makes us feel like we’re in control. At times like this, we recognize we are so not in control.
Brian: Right; it’s amazing how such a small microscopic thing has shut down the world—
Ron: That’s right.
Brian: —with all of our power/with everything that we have. I love how you just said it—it’s a great reminder that we are small.
For us, finding what true north is/seeing who true north is, we would see that person as God.
Brian: For me, one thing that has helped is I’ve been reading Paul David Tripp’s, New Morning Mercies. If you haven’t gotten that book yet, you need to get that. It’s a great opportunity to just find true north every day.
I was amazed by—even a couple of weeks ago, right when this thing was starting to happen—he was talking about Jesus walking on the water in the midst of the waves just pummeling the boat. He talked about how Jesus didn't come to remove the difficulty; He came to meet them in the difficulty. Just those little reminders help us point back to, “Okay, we’re small; He’s not.”
Ron: Yes; I want to encourage people to submit to this recalibration process right now. I don’t know about you, but I've been fighting it. I want to hold on to my idols—sometimes they’re idols; they’re anchors—but sometimes they’re idols: like the things I really have trusted in and, now, I realize I can’t trust in those things. I’m being recalibrated back to where true north is: “I’ve got to hold onto God.”
Scriptures like that [Jesus walking on water, Matthew 14:22-33] are really good.
Psalm 23 is one that I go to over and over and over again. It’s just something that I try to remind myself of: “The Lord is my shepherd.” You know, in moments like this, you definitely have to lean into: “Who’s in charge?” What does the shepherd do?—He makes me…” “He leads me…” “He restores…” “He leads me…”—I mean, those are repeated there; so God is doing something on our behalf at times like this.
But notice, Brian, what happens next: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,”—you know, I think, that if God is my shepherd, there should be no valley. But right here, in one of the most famous passages that people quote all the time at funerals and all kinds of occasions, we’re reminded there's valley, even in the middle when God is shepherding us/when He is with us. It just means we face the valley with God; we're not alone in the valley. I think that’s a huge reminder.
Meditating on Scriptures like this—holding onto them, quoting them, talking about them over the dinner table—maybe this is a time for your family to memorize a little bit of Scripture, where you’re reoriented by that Scripture—having a little fun with that practice—but it’s helping us remember who’s in charge.
Over 150 times in Scripture God says, “Do not be afraid”; then He tells us how we’re not to be afraid. Basically connected with that—“Do not be afraid,”—is: “I'm with you. I’m never going to leave you.” His presence is a giant hug. You know, when I read
Psalm 23 or meditate on these other passages, like it’s God’s way of hugging us. We just need to visualize that, experience that, and hold onto that. I think we can even share that with our kids/with our spouse.
Brian: But just don’t hug me right now; I’m just not quite sure.
Ron: Got it.
Brian: I know you said you washed your hands,—
Ron: Got it.
Brian: —but I just don’t want to be quite close to you right now. [Laughter]
Ron: By the way there, I think there’s a real benefit in being candid with God around our anxiety around all of us.
Ron: God is not fragile. He's not going to be offended if we call out to Him, or cry out to Him, or really wrestle with what is going on? I think God appreciates that. As a matter of fact, there’s an irony: when we are calling out to God, we are talking to God. It’s always good to keep talking to God.
I think we put ourselves in too many corners as Christians: “Well, I shouldn’t be anxious, ever.” “Come on,”—right?—“that’s not the human experience.”
Brian: Well, that’s what Paul says; right?—“Be anxious for nothing”?
Ron: Well, actually, he says, “Don’t be in a continual state of perpetual anxiety.” That’s a little different than not having circumstantial anxieties and seasons of life, where there’s good reason to be. If somebody’s not anxious, they’re not tuning in to what’s happening in the world.
Ron: You should have a little bit, but you shouldn’t be completely overwhelmed by your anxiety. First Peter 5 says, “Cast all your anxieties on Him”; so clearly we are going to have some anxiety. God invites us to, again, lean into true north.
Brian: So talk a little bit about our typical response: Where do we typically go with our fear? What do we typically do with our anxieties?—because running to God isn’t typically our number one thing that we do.
Ron: Yes, well, I think sometimes we get mad at God. We feel like the world should revolve around me, so we take it out on Him or other people. We get overwhelmed by our anxiety. Sometimes we withdraw from God and others.
We sometimes move toward others, expecting them to fix our anxiety—that's a little interesting—like, “I need you to be everything for me, so that I don’t feel anxious.” Now, children need that from parents. We need to be able to be the ones, who are physically touching and reassuring them; they need that for sure.
But one of the other things we do is get angry, like we’re out of control; and that ripples into anger, and the next thing you know, we're taking it out on somebody.
Brian: Is that—I was going to say that really leads us to our second compass point.
Brian: So our second compass point is really: “How do we sort through our emotions, our fears, our anxieties? How do we manage that fear and that pain that we’re all feeling?”
Ron: Well, trusting God is number one—right?—finding north; because that really does remind us that it’s not on me, and I don’t have to ultimately have all the answers.
But then I think we have to recognize just what we do with our pain and fear, and how that can get ahold of us; and it’s my job to manage that part of me. Somebody said once that fear and grief is astoundingly self-centered. [Laughs] We just see the world through our own lens. All of a sudden, we’re tuning out whatever everybody else around us needs or what’s going on; like we just get self-centered.
We have to try to take ownership of that and try not to stay in that space as best we can. I think it’s more genuine to say, “I’m not feeling great,” and to talk about that with somebody within your network: a friend, FaceTime, a spouse, a child in your home—to be real with that.
Especially, let’s talk about kids for a minute; because one of the things I think that parents feel is, “We’ve got to put up a good front, and we can't be genuine with…” No, I don’t think so. I think, actually, you show them what it is to be uncertain and trusting God in the same moment—like you talk through your uncertainty and how you’re choosing to put faith in God. This is a huge teachable moment for our children to watch us do that, because that’s real.
Brian: Ron, talk to the couple, or to the single mom, or to the family that’s going, “We've never had those conversations, and now you’re telling me I need to start having these around the dinner table?”
Ron: I think a lot of people make this way too hard; they overthink it. They sit around and they plan: “Alright, how do I get real and share my emotions?” No, don’t do that. Just, in the midst of eating dinner or playing a card game, just go: “You know what? I’m feeling a little weird about this whole thing. I’m just not sure what to make of it, but I’m trusting in God to be with us right now. Anybody else feeling that?”
My guess is, wow, you just lifted the lid off; and people are like, “Yeah, that’s me too!” But because you went first, you gave permission for other people to do it. Don’t overthink it; just jump in.
A couple of other quick tips before we leave this one, Brian.
Brian: Yes, please do.
Ron: Just take a deep breath; lower your expectations for yourself. I’ve told myself, “I’m not going to be as productive.” I’m already giving myself and people that work with me permission to go: “I need a break. I need to step away from this. I need to have boundaries, even though it’s in my home. I’m not going to work after a certain hour; I’m walking away, turning off the laptop.”
Otherwise, you’re going to constantly be under pressure in the midst of uncharted territory. Don't do that to yourself, or don’t do that to kids. I hate to say this, but they’re not going to be learning as much—homeschool/whatever that is for them.
Brian: Yes, that’s good. Then you also—we were talking about this yesterday—just having multiple check-ins.
Ron: Yes, just check in: “What’s happening today?” “What are you feeling?” “This is what’s going on for me…” Again, those are hug moments. You may not feel like you’re hugging each other; but because you’re saying, “We are going to share this anxiety together,” it ends up being a hug moment.
Brian: Let’s go to that third compass point. The third compass point is really about establishing new rhythms; because as we talked about, everything’s been thrown out. All of my markers/all of my compass points that I’ve had in the past—my 8 to 5: I’m going to my third space at Starbucks, and I’m going to have my coffee, and work there for a little while—that’s gone.
Brian: All those tables are put up.
It is all about, after day one, Jen and I were looking at each other, going, “If we don’t recognize how our schedules are or figure out a new schedule, we’re going to go insane.” For us, it came down to—I’ll just say real quickly—but six “S” sounds, you know:
We wanted to seek the Lord first; that’s true north.
We wanted to study: our kids need to study; they didn't have time for studying. We could learn new things, read more books that we’ve never done before.
We talk about screens. We’ve got to navigate the screens now and negotiate: “Okay, we can’t just default to that. So how do I help our kids self-regulate?”
We talked about times of celebration. These are these hug moments that you’re talking about: the times around the dinner table; play games again, like you've done before; be okay with reviewing all of that.
Then we talked a little bit about how we’re trying to serve: “What are some unique ways we can serve one another?”—we call that chores—so “Serve one another”; we’ve reframed that.
Then “Can we be salt and light to others?” and try to find a way, even with social distance, to serve.
Ron: What I love about this conversation that your family had—
Ron: —is you are negotiating the new rhythms of life; so the conversation is a big negotiation, if you will, of: “Alright, how are we going to do this? What are the boundaries? What do we expect of each other? How are we going to do this?”
I think, if I remember right, you guys said your plan is to have a regular check-in with the kids: revisit the “S’s” and “How’s that going for you?” and “How’s this going for you?”—not high pressure—but just simply as a tool to help give new normality to what everybody is dealing with. You’re kind of talking it through in order to figure out how you’re going to do life together, because all the rules are off.
You’re going to have to dialogue frequently, especially here in the uptake of all of this. And you’re going to have to talk with other homes, if you’re a single parent and children move between homes, or a blended family. We had somebody on Facebook® ask, “How do we self-quarantine when the children need to go to the other home?”
Brian: That’s a great question.
Ron: You know what? I don’t know that I know the answer. I know, in these unprecedented times, you may have to be really flexible and figure out a way to work together. I do think it’s important for kids to continue to have access to parents; so yes, this is just strange. It’s going to be a conversation—finding those routines and discovering what those are going to be with one another—I think is important.
I’m mindful, Brian, that somebody’s lost a job.
Ron: And they have a whole lot of time that they didn’t want to have. They’re not sure what they’re going to do. Finding the new rhythm with that is going to be a matter of prayer for sure. You might be able to get creative and find some ways of earning a little money that are just outside the box for you, online or whatever.
The other thing I want to say is, if you need help financially, reach out. I know there are churches; I know you have friends and family members that would want to make a difference. Right now, they can drop it off on your doorstep. Sometimes we just have to ask.
Ron: I've got one more idea I want to throw on here; and it’s simply this: “I think we've got to remain flexible.” Just today my wife was noticing on Facebook that some new information came down; schools are going to be closed longer than people thought. It’s like, “Oh my goodness; it’s changing again.”
So as you develop these new routines/try to establish a new normal. Let’s just recognize it could change tomorrow. We’re going to have to keep doing this: revisiting over and over and over. I just have a feeling it’s going to be an ongoing process of figuring out how we navigate this together.
Brian: Yes; Ron, I did remember my last “S.”
Ron: What is it?!
Brian: It was “sweat.”
Brian: So work out; get outside as much as you can. It’s spring—I know, for some places, it's still pretty cold and there’s winter—but as much as you can, find a way to get energy back; because that really helps you over the long haul.
Ron: Good self-care.
Brian: So that leads us to our last point—which is our last compass point—which is really: “Walk in love: ‘How do we do this with our family and for those we can be salt and light to?’”
Ron: We’re looking for opportunities to be what you just said, “salt and light.” Of course, getting reoriented towards true north helps us get outside of ourselves; but serving other people also helps us get outside of ourselves. One of the great ways to deal with tension and uncertainty is to start doing for others rather than just looking in the mirror, and wondering, and worrying about, “What’s going on with my own life?” This is actually good mental health; this is good self-care.
But far more important than that, this is an opportunity to let light shine in the world. We just have to begin to look for opportunities: “How do we be real, as a community, in our own neighborhoods?”—finding ways of getting outside of ourselves and doing, even if it’s doing, virtually, for somebody.
You made a comment off-camera a little while ago that was a little convicting for me. You were talking about how some people are being cavalier about all of this. Yes, I’ve found myself being a little flippant at times, like: “Ah, it’s not as bad as they make it out to be,” “Well, maybe it is”; but I have a sense of security about my life. But there are people that don’t have that for whatever reason: sometimes it’s financial, job loss, whatever it might be. This is a great chance for me to get outside of myself and start pouring into the people that are marginalized in society, that are on the edges, that are really having struggle right now. Soon and very soon, we could all have struggle—I have no idea—but right now, I have an opportunity to help somebody else.
Brian: Absolutely; whether it’s loving people inside our home or it’s loving people outside our home, we're not going to be able to do that well. It’s a radical love that we’re talking about, because it's getting outside of ourselves. We can’t do that without God’s help; I can't do that without the help of the Spirit.
When Jesus told His disciples in the upper room, the night before He’s about to go to the cross, the greatest crisis that He [would] ever [go] through, He told them, “I want you to love one another as I have loved you.” He knew they couldn’t do it on their own; so He said, “I’m going to send you the Spirit.”
The Spirit is really—it’s that sense of, when we feel uncertain and we’re not sure quite how to do this, that we depend upon Him: say a quick “Help me, Lord.” When my kids are being incredibly irritable, that’s the moment I need to move into them. When my wife or when I’m feeling impatient, that’s the moment that I go: “God, help me in this moment. Help me to love; help me to walk in love.” Now, more than ever, we need that kind of radical love.
Ron: Yes; you know, just this morning, I was reading Philippians, Chapter 4. It’s a passage we read about anxiety, but I was amazed at how many of the little four navigation points we’ve been talking about are embedded in this little passage:
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” Now, how are you going to do that if you don't know where true north is?—right? You get your compass set, and all of a sudden, you're reminded, “I can find joy, even in this hard situation, because I know what’s eternal; and I know what happens,”—so there’s something to hold onto there.
“Let your reasonableness”—or gentleness, or generosity is another word that comes through in this passage—“be known to everyone.” What an opportunity to let our generosity be known to everyone.
“The Lord is at hand.” That’s another true north reference: “Hey, He’s with you; He’s present. We’re not in this all by ourselves.”
“So”—verse 6—“do not be anxious about anything.” We say that, sometimes, as if we never have reason to be anxious; that's not what he's saying. “Because the Lord is with you, do not be anxious.” By the way, that's the perpetual state of anxiety. It’s not that we can’t be anxious, some, given circumstances; but don’t live in a constant state of not knowing where north is—right? That’s what he’s talking about.
“But in everything in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,”—this is how we cope—“and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” We want to manage our fear and our pain: we call out to God; we cry out to Him.
Then it continues: “Think about things that are true and honorable and just and pure and lovely,”—these are all true north qualities—“If anything is excellent, praiseworthy think about these things.” Again, this helps us to find where north is and how to move forward.
“Practice these things,” even within your home: whoever’s there; the limitations that we have.
Brian: I just think practice is all about new rhythms. It’s about that sense of: “Okay, we’ve got to establish those.”
Ron: We walk that out. And what’s the final part of this passage?
“…and the God of peace will be with you.” Ultimately, that’s what we're holding onto here.
Bob: That’s Ron Deal, who, together with Brian Goins, recently provided counseling and coaching for all of us on how we work our way through the current COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting every one of us.
Dave: Yes, I actually listened to that, live, when they presented it the other night. It was so helpful—the compass reminder and true north. I mean, we know it; but it’s just good to be reminded that there is a rock that is never moved, that is stable, that is going to guide us—His name is Jesus—through this storm. That’s a reminder we need to hear and learn and, also, broadcast to others.
Ann: I think those guys are so wise. They’re just giving us direction; they're giving us peace. I love that, Dave, you mentioned the foundation; we mentioned the anchor; we mentioned true north; we mentioned how Jesus is our foundation, and that is what He is.
Bob: And Ann, I love the fact that they told us to stay on mission and keep our eyes open. What’s your hashtag that you’re promoting during this?
Ann: Yes; #CoronaLoveChallenge
Bob: I love that.
Ann: Yes, because it’s easy to huddle in and have our eyes on ourselves. That’s what we do when we’re fearful—we go inward—but I think God, always, is saying, “No, keep your eyes outward,” “How can we love an be on mission for those around us?”
Bob: Dave, pray for us, will you, just as we’ve heard these things; and we want to make sure we stay anchored and we stay focused. Just pray for each one of us; will you?
Dave: I would love to.
Father, we recognize You are our only hope. You are our foundation. As Ron and Brian said, You are true north. You are solid in the midst of unstable and uncertain times. So You are the only one that we can place our hope and our peace and find joy even in the middle of this.
So, Lord, we trust You; we believe You. We ask You to protect, and guide, and work in and through us in this time. I pray that You would just help us even to find a vaccine to cure this thing; but Lord, be our true north; be our foundation. I pray that You would bring us peace in the middle of this whole thing. Help us to be taking the peace that You give us to bring it to others in many different ways. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Bob and Ann: Amen.
Bob: I want to encourage our listeners—you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, if you’d like to view the video—the complete session—with Ron and Brian; you can share that with others. This would be great for the family to watch together; or if you’ve got friends or family members/relatives, you can pass the video along to them. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; the link for the video is available there.
Tomorrow, we’re going to hear from the two of you, Dave and Ann Wilson. You shared with your congregation that hope is not cancelled and gave us some very practical ways that we can live through this virus, so that‘s coming up on tomorrow’s program. I encourage our listeners to be with us for that.
Thanks today to our engineer, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team, who’s working extra hard this week on all of these programs. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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