Vacation Day 27 – Back To Normal

Today is the second to last day of my vacation. I’m realizing that my time up here is almost done and beginning to try to work through the emotions and necessary thoughts that need to be had in order to go back to normal life. The thing is though, it’s not going to be normal life.

Before I left Springfield, I lost my job, one of my very best friends moved away, and we had to move out of our house because we can’t afford the rent anymore. So starting life back up in Springfield will be anything but normal…

That’s the way it always is though isn’t it?

We spend so much of our lives just trying to “get things back to normal” when what I’m learning is that we need to abandon that phrase altogether. It’s not helpful, and very seldom does it have any real meaning. Yes, of course you can have routine, and there can be things that you count on happening. You can follow schedules and count on the same people again and again, but the question I would ask is “what is normal?” Normal compared to what? Your ideal life? The past six months? Your work schedule? What is normal, and why is everyone so desperate to make sure that their lives “get back” to it?

Some people talk about trying to find the “new normal” and I’ve certainly done that, but even that doesn’t really make any sense. It’s difficult for something to be new (in regard to routine or schedule or relationship) and still be normal. Normal is something that I think we idolize because it implies we have some measure of control over our lives. Those of us who desire to be in control want, as the great theologian the Joker once said, “everything to go according to plan.” We need to be able to control things, and we need to be able to identify and define what normalcy is. The more I think about this though, the more I realize that it’s not my place to control what normal is. Again, I’m not arguing semantics here, there are certainly things that are normal and abnormal about our lives. But getting to a state of “normal” is something that I think many people fantasize about. We dream of “getting back to normal” life. We talk about how things will be once we “get back to normal” routines and schedules. Again, there is some truth in all of that. We will certainly have to figure out what our schedule is going to be like when we move back. I’ll have to figure out what to do about my job. We’ll have many questions that need answers, and we’ll want to try to live a life that is thoughtful and intentional and controlled, but all of that is much different than trying to live a life that we control.

As christians we are called to live lives that are abnormal in many senses of the word. We are called to be peculiar people. When I think about that, and I think about how much time goes into trying to preserve control and, subsequently, the peace of mind brought about by that control, I wonder if maybe normal is just another idol that we make for ourselves. A great theologian once said that our hearts are factories for making idols. He said that we can take anything and make it something we worship. I think that’s true for schedules and routines and “normal.”

Be careful of how much you feel the need to be in control of your schedule and your life. It is good to exercise self-control. It’s good to have things “under control”, but both of those terms imply something different than simply trying to be IN control, and I think that’s what the quest for “getting back to normal” is often about. We serve a sovereign God who is also a very good father, and we need to learn to rest in the fact that he is in control. Everything is going according to his plan, and he’s never needed to get things “back to normal” before, because things have always been right on schedule. Knowing this should help us be able to face the fears that we have when it comes to moving, or moving back, or job hunting, or just doing new things. God is great, so we don’t have to be in control.

What is normal?
What is home?
What are cows?!?
– Douglas Adams


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