Over the last few weeks, I have heard many people referring to our pandemic situation as a disruption to our normal lives. Children aren’t allowed to be normal children that go to school. People have to work from home which is not normal for most. Our grocery store shelves are not stocked with the same normal ease. Life has changed greatly for most of us. And change is hard. Almost daily we can hear people saying that they can’t wait to return to “normal”.
I was taking a walk and listening to a podcast when the writer being interviewed said something I had to pause and ponder. He said something to the effect that we are using normal as a club to beat others over the head. We crave normalcy even though there really is no such true thing. It is easy for us to criticize others that don’t fit into our ideals of normal or culturally acceptable behaviors. And we compare way too much. In II Corinthians 10:12, God says that comparing ourselves with others makes us unwise. We each have our own race to run. The finish line is when we meet Jesus face to face and stand before the Father. We will each give our own account on that day. But, the moment a life enters the world, we are pushing them to achieve normalcy and behave like everyone else their age. We constantly want to know when someone else’s child…
slept through the night, stopped nursing, rolled over, ate soft foods, cut teeth, walked, said their first words, potty-trained, learned their first words, went to pre-school and how often, learned to read…dated, went to college, bought their first house, had kids…retired…it never ends until we are gone.
And this works until it doesn’t. We see that in this current situation all throughout the world. People don’t know what to do with themselves without their normal routines. But I think God is wanting more from us than “normal”. Things are definitely being shaken and not stirred right now. Each of our lives are going to be looking very different for an indeterminate amount of time. As hard as the school systems try to implement the same learning opportunities, life within the home is vastly different and will yield different outcomes. Some parents will shepherd their children well and some won’t. But we don’t have a rule book for how to navigate this situation right now and each person will have to figure out what their new normal will be for their family. That terrifies us.
I was thinking about my mom and dad’s marriage and how they survived when they were not given the “normal” married life we so often picture. They raised their kids and were entering retirement years when my mom was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. Her new normal was to visit doctor’s offices often, lug oxygen tanks everywhere she went, and be mostly bed-ridden. As the years went on, the quality of her life with dad was not what she had dreamed about. My dad never dreamed that he would have to care for her in every way and then say goodbye to her so early in their lives. They knew that this was not “normal” when looking at other married couples. Many people were out enjoying life and traveling together or running around after grandchildren. They could barely go out to eat before mom was needing to return home. And yet, I saw such a beautiful love story right in front of my eyes as dad lovingly cared for my mom until she took her last breath in their home. There were days I longed to be able to do mother/daughter activities like we had before. I know dad longed to have a “normal” marriage and enjoy life with his bride. But God had something different for them than normal. Even though sad and disheartening at times, they loved and lived the best life they could under the circumstances. They still served and loved God despite their circumstances. I learned that God is not confined to working under normal conditions and constraints. He taught me once again that He was using all of this to grow me into not just a better image of myself but a clearer image of who He is. None of the pain would be wasted.
In direct contrast to my parents, is a lady that I encountered recently. She has openly complained about how her husband’s dementia has kept her from living a normal life. She wants to divorce him, because she believes she is owed something better than caring for and sacrificing for her husband. She wants normal. She wants freedom. She wants what she sees others having. She isn’t willing to wade through the waters of suffering. It’s harsh but real. Without Christ, this can easily become acceptable conduct.
While many might read her story and think how awful and unloving that sounds, our society is held together by the comparison game. Parents don’t want to do things that God may be leading them to do if it means their kids won’t have the childhood everyone else around them has. Kids grow into bitter adults at the choices their parents made that make them feel like they missed out on being a normal kid. Taking your kids to the mission field is not a normal thing to do. Homeschooling is becoming more acceptable but still, not in large, a normal thing to do. This is why so many parents and teachers are panicking right now, because they don’t believe that God can get their kids to the place they need to be to fulfill His purposes without the normal classroom experience. Thinking outside of the norm is risky, but I haven’t read too many stories in Scripture about God using people in ways that didn’t shock a lot of people. No, God is used to shaking people up out of their “normal”. He talks to believers a lot about being changed and transformed. We are asked to trust even when we can’t see. And if we are too busy looking at the neighbors, we will miss the things He is trying to teach us through the crisis. What seems like a crisis to us is not to God. Eyes off the world. Eyes on Christ. Seek His kingdom above our own. None of us will ever truly grow into His likeness without hardship and sometimes pain. So while our lives will most likely return to what we consider to be normal in time, do not waste the opportunity to learn something in the waiting. Better yet! Live fully in the present and quit waiting for the old normal to return. Rise to the challenge and let God show you how to be content in any situation. Don’t be stuck in what was when you are living in the what is! For how ever long God allows us to live differently, may He find us faithful…not to a comfortable and expected lifestyle and routine, but to proclaiming His excellencies and goodness to a world terrified of a new normal.