This Is Not Normal pt. 2

One of the things you discover about your “normal” is that it’s not everyone’s normal. From the way you celebrate Thanksgiving to the way you unwrap gifts on Christmas to your idea of a ‘date night’, normal is relative. Even if most relatives aren’t normal.

My goal isn’t to be like everyone else. Besides being boring, uniformity can be as crazy as nonconformity. My struggle is that I’m bombarded with definitions and descriptions from media, blogs, news, entertainment and books on ministry and the church that feel almost like a foreign language to me when they say, “this is church” or “this is Christianity”. The complication of this is that when I get into a conversation with someone and they talk about pastors, churches, Christianity or even Jesus, I’m conscious of the fact that they’re probably working from an entirely different experience and/or definition than I am.

It’s like talking to a friend who has grown up with an abusive father. You talk about your own dad and the way he was there for you, helped you grow up soft but strong, showed you how mercy and justice can live together, lived imperfectly but honestly and you almost feel guilty for having your experience. But certainly it’s like talking apples and oranges with the other person. Their caricature of “father” is harsh, ugly, hurtful, void of nurture and love. Or at least mostly so. Where do you begin a common discussion on family?

On top of that, unless I live with my eyes and ears closed I have to own the fact that the experiences of the other are real experiences, true experiences.

A couple decades ago I was connecting with a family who had just left a church they had been part of for over 10 years. And they were lost. Not “lost” as in “once was…but now I’m found” but lost in that they didn’t know how to make a decision for themselves, constantly fought with each other over what to do with their kids, their marriage, their careers. All this because for the previous ten years they had a pastor telling them how many kids to have, which jobs to take, where to spend their vacations, how and when to discipline their children. The pastor told everyone in that church how to do all those things. Without his influence, that they both agreed was hurtful in the end, this couple couldn’t figure out how to live. Like the prisoner in “Shawshank Redemption” that kills himself after being released from prison because he couldn’t figure out how to live on the outside, this couple was self-destructing quickly.

We’ve created the confusion that I and others feel about what normal is. Fair enough. But I also know of many exceptions to the rule and I wonder why we can’t hear more of those stories? Why is it that Ted Haggard gets another 15 minutes and men and women, who lay their lives down, like my friend in the U.K., don’t get 15 seconds? What is it about us that wants to make the dysfunction “normal” and the “normal” comfortably described as the unusual, the abnormal, the “exception”?


About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church, discipleship, faith, God, ministry, perception, religion, theology, truth. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to This Is Not Normal pt. 2

  1. One of the things I learned in my psychology degree in the late 1980’s is that “normal” is a sliding range. It is defined by all kinds of experiences of what is normal for individuals, all pooled together and graded on a bell curve. It allows for the extremes. It includes the averages and the non-averages.

    I agree that we need to hear some of the varied stories instead of being led to believe that all Christians look alike. I remember many years ago, reading Watchman Nee’s book “The Normal Christian” and thinking that this bore very little resemblance of what passed for normal THEN. How much more so now. You know, where Christ really makes a difference in a life, where He is the source, where we realize we can do nothing on our own, and He leads us on a daily basis, where we can be real (imperfect, honest) and not be judged, that kind of thing.

    Dear God~! how we need lots more of that!!

  2. Nathan says:

    I think we hear more of those ‘other stories’ because they’re both sensational and they help appease guilt for our own areas of dysfunction. Instead of having to repent – change the way we think and live, we can re-write the definitions so that we no longer have to repent and can continue living in the dysfunction that we’re comfortable with. We may even be aware of our own pain and the pain we inflict on others, but because it’s now ‘normal’ we’re A OK to leave it as it is. We don’t have to overcome the fear that keeps us from facing our pain and walking through it.

    The funny part is that people are looking for leadership as to what ‘normal’ is as they want to experience, wholeness, joy and life to the full. But when that vision is given and it means change…

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