I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the word normal, for a few reasons.
I have well-meaning individuals in my life who keep asking me, “When will you stop having seizures and get back to normal?” I have to remind them that I am an epileptic, and this IS normal for me. To them, normal seems to mean not having seizures, so both me and my daughter are abnormal. I know I am sounding mean-spirited, and playing word games a bit here, but the insinuation unfortunately hangs in the air every time sometimes ask me when I will get back to normal.
One of my oldest friends is a future television screenwriting star – I know you will all know her name someday, and I will be able to say, “She watched my kids when she was 12, but I didn’t know she was 12, because she didn’t look 12 and certainly didn’t act 12” and people will be jealous – and she is just brilliant. Truthfully, she is one of the most well-spoken and thoughtful people I know, and also happens to be African-American. Regularly, people she comes across of all races and genders are SHOCKED at how intelligent and thoughtful she is FOR A BLACK WOMAN! So, apparently to many people it is normal for a young black woman to be ignorant, or uninformed, or not inarticulate. Again, the unintended consequences of others’ expectations produces frustration.
So, what should normal look like in the church, and what if anything does the Bible have to say about this? Believe or not, there were racial and societal tensions in the first century too, and the Apostle Paul had to instruct the early churches on how to deal with them in a God-honoring way. Most of the epistles have a verse or two on the topic, so let’s just pick one. Galatians 3:26-28 says:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Said differently, in Jesus there is no racial differentiation, no social status, no gender break…just lovers of God. Oh that we would learn to walk in that today! When we see the teenager sucking her thumb in the Sunday service, might our heart be filled with joy that she’s worshiping God by raising her hands during worship, instead of our minds being filled with judgment that her parents let her act that way. When we see the autistic girl struggling to find her way in the raucous junior high ministry, might we befriend her and encourage our children to do the same, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
Truth is this – whether we are in Christ or not, we are all abnormal. We are all broken. Sin has touched us all, messed us all up, warped our minds, distorted our emotions, blinded us from the best in ourselves and others. So really, we are all in process, and either moving toward God or away from Him. Let’s decide together to stop defining normal and just encourage one another along the path toward Christ, day by day, moment by moment.