“Normal” Times

Jan 03, 2011

We have closed out the year 2010, a year of uncertainty and a small economic recovery; we enter 2011 with many questions about how our lives will be in the unknown and untested year ahead. Since the economic crash of 2008, we’ve lived with more uncertainty than in the previous 50 years.

So often during times of uncertainty or stress we want to return to normal, but how many “normal” times have we already enjoyed? Normal to me is a moving target, and the desire to return there is nostalgia, a romanticizing of what went before that seems easier than what is happening now. With the amount of change we experience in life normal is whatever equilibrium we achieve for the moment.

I have a friend who recently broke her foot. She wrote today of wanting to get back to normal. For her I think that longing is for a time when she could move freely, drive wherever and whenever she wants and see her students at their homes.

I have often felt this way: I want things to be normal again! but I have learned that there is no normal. There is always change: events like a broken foot can change our lives; members of our family or friends change when we don’t want them to, or loved ones get sick or someone we are close to dies; we evolve to no longer wanting the same things in our lives, we have to relocate. Any event like these changes our lives forever. It is what we make of these events that gives them a positive or negative effect on our lives.

If we are persons of the Spirit, if we live a life dedicated to the Holy One, then the longing for what was becomes a signal that we are resisting what is in our lives. Jesus taught that the only thing we were to cling to was God: he said to love God with all of ourselves,[1] to leave our fathers and mothers,[2] to let the dead bury the dead,[3] to not turn and look backward [like Lot’s wife did[4]] when we have picked up the plow.[5]

Jesus is asking us to not waste our energies in nostalgia for the past, but to be present to what is, to embrace it, if you will, to put our energies in the here and now. We can absolutely trust Christ: with our lives in his hands we can be assured that 1) we will be taken care of—no matter what happens, 2) that our loved ones will have the same love and attention, 3) that we will be given whatever resources we need for any situation, and 4) that we will not be facing any reality alone.

Jesus does not guarantee, however, that difficult things won’t happen to us. In spite of this we can rest assured of God’s love and presence in our lives.

[1] Matthew 22:37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” NIV

[2] Matthew 10:37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

[3] Matthew 8:22 “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

[4] Genesis 19:26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

[5] Luke 9:62 “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

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