Re-defining Normal

written by J. A. Hart
I have recently wondered at the phrase “the new normal” regarding the changes happening in our world. Since covid started, I’ve read many tirades both for and against the term; I even wrote one myself in April of 2020 rooted in C. S. Lewis’ “Learning in Wartime.”

I suppose now, as we return to a hybrid state of “normal” after covid and other world-altering events, the term returns to my mind. This time, I am less interested in the phrase and more interested in our definition of “normal.”

What does this term mean anyway? How do you and I define it? Go ahead; define it in your own words.

My definition might read something like: “‘Normal’ is an individual’s or culture’s way of understanding how the world works or operates.” In a sense, two plus two should equal four. That’s how math works. That’s normal.

But what happens when two plus two no longer equals four? What happens when our normals are rendered false and shattered like glass.

If our life is about growing up, going to college, getting a job, getting married, having fun, and living it up, what happens when we don’t grow up? When abuse assaults our young hearts, and we quite literally never grow emotionally. What happens if we never get the scholarship? Or we get to college, but a pandemic occurs, and it forces us home? What happens if we never achieve our dream job or we never get that promotion? What if he never proposes, or she never says yes? What if we achieve our life’s dreams, but it never gives us peace?

What if…? What if…? What if…?

I could go on and on, but you must see it by now.

We spend our lives building these “normals” like Frankenstein. The problem is, they never truly come to life; either they never happen, or they do, and we still can’t find what we really want. Honestly, what the hell do we do with this?

It’s hard to deny the evidence around us. Things are falling apart faster than we can think. As the human race, we like to say we are “progressing,” but I only see us adding to the “wind and the waves.”

I know I feel helpless; I can’t even control simple things in my day to day. I feel like I’m drowning in the storms of life. Most of the time, I find myself discouraged and sometimes bitter, asking the question, “Why?”

But if I stop and observe honestly, I can see why: I don’t have the full perspective.

I’ve spent most of my time looking at life through a keyhole, assuming the door is open, and I can see with clarity. My idea of normal is rooted in this kind of sight. No wonder it lasts mere seconds in the scheme of time. I am, as James says, “Tossed to and fro by the wind and the waves.”

Friends, you and I need an anchor. Without one, we will surely drown, and the reality is there has always been one on our ship; we’ve just never used it. What’s more, there’s even a captain on board, weathered and seaworthy.

He knows what’s going on.

He sees the whole picture with absolute clarity.

He can successfully navigate us to solid ground.

The problem is, we mutinied against him and took the wheel, thinking we could navigate the impossible successfully. We locked him below deck, forgetting him completely. We think we’ve always been the captain. We think we’ve always known the way, but when we step back, we see the result of our actions- shipwreck amid a world of wreckers.

But the beauty of our Abba is this- he never gives up on us. He allows us another chance to let him captain the ship again. We need only go to him below deck and let him guide us.

Only he knows the way through the mist and storm into the sound air and bright light of the coming dawn.

The person we let captain our hearts will define our “normal” in life. If we allow our abba to anchor and captain our hearts, he will lead us to life. With him, solid ground isn’t a theory, it’s the truest reality.

Calibration:
  • How would you define normal in your life?
  • Who do you think influences your definition of normal?
  • Does your definition of normal align with Abba’s definition? Why or why not?
  • Who are you allowing to captain your life? Why?
  • What step can you practically take to shift your definition of normal to look more like Abba’s definition?

Go Deeper:
Often our definition of normal is informed by the narratives we believe. If we want to align our hearts to the truest narrative, we need to release a narrative we currently believe.

  1. What is one narrative about how the world works that you believe? I.e., “I believe if I act like a good person, nothing bad will happen to me.”
  2. What “normal” does that narrative create. I.e., “It’s normal for good people to get good things, and bad people to receive bad things.”
  3. Go to your Abba’s words. What does he say about that narrative and normal? Is he for or against it?
  4. In a journal or on a piece of paper, draw two columns. In the first column, write out the fruit of that narrative in your life (I.e., I judge others characters based on what they get in life). In the second column, write out the fruit of Abba’s narrative (I.e., I see people as image-bearers. When life isn’t what I desire it to be, I don’t go straight to blaming it on God or myself.)
  5. Are you experiencing the fruit of Abba’s narrative? Why or why not?
  6. If not, what step can you take this week to align your narrative to his? What do you need to release in your narrative? What do you need to receive from Abba’s narrative?
  7. Step into that this week.

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