Normal: There’s no such thing, dear. Says Helen Hunts movie Mom in one of our favorites, As Good As It Gets.
My “normal” as a young one was spent being raised by my grandparents, which, as I found out once I started school was not normal at all back then. So, my normal wasn’t really normal at all. (Depending on who you ask, of course.)
My “normal” routine years ago when I had three kids in three different schools playing three different sports, one in a stroller and one in the oven looks waaaaay different than my routine does today. We are down to that one in the oven being almost done proving and baking, ready for college and a career.
My “normal” now affords me more time to read, garden, golf, spend time with girlfriends, volunteer, write etc. There are days when I grieve the old days of chaos and running around, pick-ups and drop-offs, potty training, sports watching, the please can I spend the night days. Most days, however, I love my quieter, new normal.
Then life happens and here you are looking down the mouth of a new normal…like it or not.
Here’s where I get in trouble: when I hold to tightly to normal. Normal is a shifting sand, subject to change at any given moment. Life is normal. Until it’s not.
Think about it….
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Moses was leading a chill life, hanging out in the pasture with a few of his best sheep friends when God called him to go free his people whose “normal” had gone from…
- A group of people living prosperous and free in Egypt because of Joseph’s leadership and relationship with the Pharaoh. Being in a foreign land had become very normal for them. Business as usual, blending in, bustling about with the day to days.
Then Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died…and a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. (Exodus 1:6,8 NIV)
Their normal was about to be turned upside down. This king didn’t like the people of Israel and in fact thought they would take over his kingdom if something wasn’t done about them. So, their new normal went from prosperous and free to…
- A group of people living in bondage with slave masters oppressing them with forced labor. They were used and abused ruthlessly making bricks from straw and working in the fields. So wicked was this king that he had every boy born during this time killed so as to cut down the future population that threatened him…if only in his own mind.
This was this generations normal. They knew of no other way of life. So much so that when Moses left the pastures to save his people, they fussed in their new found freedom and wanted to go back to the way things had once been. Back to bondage. Back to the familiar. This new, unknown normal felt very abnormal and was a scary place.
Fast forward a few hundred years and we see Jesus standing in the temple courts watching as men sold cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (John 2:14 NIV)
This was a new(er) normal for them. This selling of sacrifices at the temple. It hadn’t always been this way but no one thought anything about it. It just sort of slipped right in. It was almost time for the Jewish Passover so the town had all manner of people, visitors from out of town, shops and restaurant owners open for business, trying to make a living so maybe it made sense to offer these wearied travelers the ease of buying their sacrifices at the temple gate instead of searching for themselves….the way it used to be…the “old normal.” But…
What started out as a ministry of convenience quickly became an established, lucrative business for the priests. (Wiersbe Bible Commentary of the NT p. 234)
Until Jesus uprooted their normal by turning over some tables and using his whip like a radical Indiana Jones. The business was shattered, people, sheep and coins scattered, doves flew and no one knew…what would happen to their normal?
And I wonder…
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What if we are living in a modern-day table turning? Sometimes it takes normal being turned upside down for us to realize today’s normal wasn’t normal yesterday but has somehow slipped in unnoticed.
What if we were living as people in bondage to things that we had no clue we were so attached to until it was taken away or at the very least changed dramatically?
What if in our quest for getting back to “normal” we completely miss the lesson?
Don’t get me wrong, I want to hug my people and not just look at them through the lens of a Zoom call. I miss connecting with real people, doing real things. I want people to see my teeth when I smile not the flowers on my mask or me trying to “smile” with my eyes. I miss walking down the aisle of a store and not feeling like I need to shout “unclean”, so people clear out of the way or worse yet, people avoid the aisle altogether because they see me coming.
What if we so long for normal that our contentment, joy, peace and comfort depend on the shifting sand of normal instead of our Rock and place of Refuge, the One who is the Giver of all things good?
What if this is a time to wake up, look up and evaluate our “normal” time, schedules, routines, budgets, brand preference, wastefulness, dinners together, quiet times, conversations, kindness, busyness, game nights, mindfulness…the list could go on and on couldn’t it?
What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly. Be careful chasing after “normal” or you’ll find yourself in the world’s web.