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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Tyranny of Normal

What is normalness? For most Americans, normalness brings us security and comfort, for it somewhat guarantees predictability. We prefer that, becoming uncomfortable when events in our lives are unpredictable and are outside of the usual realm of our experience and control. We prefer the security of not having to deal with surprises in our lives.

But “normal” is a relative term. No two people can agree on what they consider to be normal in their lives. For those of us fortunate enough to have a job, normal might be the daily routine of getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home at night to our family, then preparing to do the same the following day. For those who have lost their jobs normal may be the frustration of the day to day search for employment, feeling like they are just spinning their wheels, that they are being broken in the futile attempt. It may be the continual frustration of marital tension experienced by the family struggling to meet their financial obligations while dealing with jobs which provide inadequate income. For the orphans in Romania, abandoned to live on the streets, normal is the desperate attempt of begging for food, scavenging garbage cans and dumps, hoping that the activity might provide a single, paltry meal for the day. For the Untouchables of India, it is the knowledge that the rigid society in which they live will keep them in perpetual destitute poverty. For children, forced to work in the squalid conditions of third world slum factories, normal is the grim realization that this is how they will pass their lives. For the young girl of Kolkata, sold into sex slavery, normal is the ever repeating forcible rapes which she must endure day after day, night after night, year after year.

For many of the people of the world normal is not something desirable. It brings with it the deadening ache of knowing that the brokenness which it causes will likely never end. The haunting reality that there may never be an escape from the prison of normalness is endless.

The solution to the misery and brokenness we experience and see around us requires transformation. It requires us to identify with the brokenness of Jesus and realize our own brokenness. As we acknowledge our own brokenness, God can use us to help those who are broken around us. Many times we feel inadequate and don’t know how to respond to the suffering of others. As we cry out in desperation to him, he heals our own brokenness and gives us the strength to reach out to those around us, helping to transform them with the love of Christ. It requires us to go beyond normalness, stepping out in faith into the thrilling adventure of letting God lead us in unpredictable ways, all the while transforming our own brokenness into vessels he can use to minister his love and grace. Transformation is never easy. We must face the painful realization of whom we are – sinful people with many faults. It begins when we become broken over our own sin and our potential to harm others. Knowing where we have been and what God is doing in us gives us hope and compassion for others in their own struggles.

The tyranny of normal can be a cruel taskmaster. It feeds on brokenness. It delights in the status quo. It leads to the abandonment of hope. Are you satisfied to live with normalcy, or are you ready, in brokenness, to be transformed by the living God?

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