Column: A lesson from astronauts


Commentary by Patti Napier

Having conversations about what I call “reentry” are encouraging but can also bring a sense of uncertainty.

Using the space shuttle as a metaphor helps me to understand how we need to prepare for this time. The astronauts, after having spent time outside of the earth’s atmosphere, experience physical and mental changes from stress, disrupted sleep patterns and other factors.

When it is time for reentry, they begin to experience the effects of gravity and drag. Reentry can be a rough trip. Heat is generated in the process and spacecrafts can burn because of the friction. And once back on Earth, the astronauts have to readjust to the force of gravity and may have difficulty standing, focusing and walking.

We cannot allow ourselves to think that transition back to “normal” living will necessarily be easy. Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • What will it be like the first time someone reaches out to shake your hand or hug you?
  • Will you immediately feel comfortable being among a crowd at any sporting event or concert?
  • What about the changed family lifestyle and patterns of living? Do you jump right back into the chaotic and hectic schedule? Was that really healthy?
  • What do you want going forward?
  • What will become the new “normal”?

As we think about reentry into a more normal pattern of living, we need to stop now and plan a course going forward. What have we learned from this time that has actually adjusted our life in healthier ways? What do we want to retain in our lives now because this normal is improved?

We need to honestly communicate with one another. Don’t be afraid of that. We have endured many stressors from being family in confined quarters and have experienced more than normal amounts of fear, anxiety and worry. Individuals and families have experienced unbelievable stress.

I lean into my Christian faith for wisdom and guidance. Proverbs 19:20-21 says, “Take good counsel and accept correction — that’s the way to live wisely and well. We humans keep brainstorming options and plans but God’s purpose prevails.” 

The wisdom from Proverbs reminds me of the actions I need to take but also reassures me that I never live alone of my own strength.            

Patti Napier is senior pastor at Carmel United Methodist Church.


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