If you ask 10 teenagers to define “normal” you’d probably wonder if alien life forms are actually walking among us. Seriously: you might get ten different looks, ten different variations of the word, “uh,” and ten different answers. They would probably start twitching after their phones.
I wonder how most adults would answer the question. You’d probably get ten different clarifying questions: “Normal in terms of…?” And you’ve really gotten nowhere. For my ten year old, “normal” is very simple: families that aren’t moving and Mom’s that don’t have cancer. I’m tempted to agree with her. But then I reminded her that she has a friend who recently moved East from California. And another whose Dad recently had open-heart surgery. So, at least there’s another family that’s as “not normal” as we are.
Then I stumbled onto it. I told her that the only normal people in the universe are those people in heaven. The rest of us aren’t normal at all; in fact, we’ll never be normal. This led to a short but intense tirade when I realized that I was no longer talking to my ten year old and I was talking to myself.
“Normal.” What a joke. She’s right though: I am tempted to think that folks very much unlike us are closer to normal. Breast cancer doesn’t seem very normal. Moving away from a place you call “home” after close to 10 years doesn’t seem normal. No: it seems health is closer to normal. Stability is closer to normal. Long-term friendships are closer to normal. I’m not sure, though. If those things were normal then there would be a lot more of that and less of what is actually in our lives. Sure, maybe we’re not making the best decisions but if you look around we all seem to be walking down similar paths.
The fact is we live in a Bent World. Normal for us (right now) is bent. It’s full of things and experiences that just don’t sit quite right in our souls; something is askew. Things that are supposed to link up together just don’t seal tight; something is amiss. Morpheus is right: it’s like a splinter in your brain yet there’s no pill to take. We get all worked up as if there’s a political party or fad diet or financial plan or health care system that can make it straight but that’s all wrong. It’s not bad for what it’s worth; but it won’t get us any closer to normal.
No, our lives and these experience are supposed to be bent. This life on the elevator that doesn’t go to the top is supposed to leave us unnerved. This isn’t resolved here. Here and now, by faith, we cling to God who knows the beginning and the end. His promises make our experiences tolerable. All of this isn’t to be taken lightly: that He would grant us His promises to give us what is needful for life and godliness is short of breathtaking (it is breathtaking). These things invade our worlds as fire hoses invade five-alarm fires.
But we are living in the midst of five-alarm fires. Thank God not everyone is losing his mind at the same time. Most of all, God. I’m glad He’s normal.