This Thing Called Normal

1 Peter 4:12
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Do you wonder why life is so far from being normal for you? Maybe it’s because you believe there is such a thing as normal, and you feel surprised by something very unsurprising. Maybe this is normal.

Normal is a funny thing. We strive for normal, pining for the days when things were normal. We have creative memories. Normal turns out to be just another idol, bland and beloved. It blinds us. We build it with our own hands out of expectations.

I remember a conversation I had with one of my young daughters a few years ago. She had just come to terms with the fact that people die, especially old people. Then she put two and two together and realized that both Mommy and I would die. Here’s an abridged paraphrase of our talk:

“Daddy, you’re old. So when you die I’ll be in charge, right?”

“Well, Honey, I guess so.”

“Good. Cause then things will be normal and I’ll do what I want.”

The context is important. I had just turned the TV off and shut down her video game. Also, there would be no more candy for her. I held the half empty bowl in my hand, the one she snuck into the living room when we weren’t looking. Her tone was sweet. Her eyes were soft. It would be years before knew the sad part of death, but in that moment she discovered a way to console herself; she invented this thing called normal. I wanted to tell her that she had another thing coming. Instead I said something like, “Well, that’s interesting, Honey. Now up to bed.”

Before I can tell anyone that he or she has another thing coming, I have to come to terms with it myself.

Normal is a completely unrealistic and unhelpful set of expectations that sets us up for daily disappointment with everyone and everything, especially God. Fiery trials are normal, not heaping portions of material and mental bliss. There’s nothing strange about our struggles. The strangest thing is our cherished belief that we are entitled to immunity from them.

I’m done with normal. Normal is box of nothing. The dictionary definition of the word must overwrite my deified definition of it. I too want to sit around and do nothing all day and night but watch TV and eat candy, but- and this apparently requires some cognitive acrobatics – this is NOT normal.







The people that hovered around Jesus were the same back then as they are now.

The world had declined to carry them in its pocket.

They had no pocket for this world. They didn’t fit
Conformity is a shortcut to belonging, except that its brand of belonging comes with an expiration date. It’s temporary and conditional. It’s milk. It won’t be good for long.

Notions and Devotions
Pastoral Encounters with Scripture, Seasons, and Life


2 Replies to “This Thing Called Normal”

  1. Great post– “normal” often equates with denial. Used this way it allows us to practice avoidance or escapism. Love this line from the unabridged Serenity Prayer: “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.”

  2. Thank you, Pastor John. Through this and your previous entry, “Fast from Lies”, I locate myself in a most disappointing state. I want to dress up my fiery trials, wish away the difficulties, to explain away the obvious glaring defects in my own life (oh, how I seem to LOVE those lies) – I want the ‘rotten cake’ – as long as it looks attractive, ‘NORMAL’, on the outside, I’m all good. WHAT ABOUT THE INSIDE?? Lord, use this, and Your Word, Your absolute Truth, to change me to be more like Jesus, who cared NOTHING about normal. Help us, Dear Holy Father, to reach for the better thing – YOU and only YOU – to trust and allow YOU and only YOU to change us, to change me, on the inside, regardless of what that looks like on the outside, how not ‘normal’ it might seem. Give us strength, and courage, oh Lord, please make me brave enough to submit to Your work and Your will, trusting fully in Your great and perfect love for me, for us, and single-mindedly focused only on the cross of Jesus Christ, where Your love and trustworthiness was clearly communicated. Expose the lies, dear Father, through the work of Your Spirit in me, in us, and grant us strengh to see them for what they are as You gently reveal them to us. Help us to choose to walk in the light of Your truth, because no ‘NORMAL’ is worth the darkness, the deep despair those lies will produce in us -Thank You, Lord, and AMEN

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