One of the benefits of having a great deal of time on my hands over the past few months is that in between the endless adjustments of resume’s and cover letters I have been able to read book after book. Now I would love to tell you I’m reading high-brow, intellectual texts but such is not the case. I love fiction- the ability to get carried away by a story and characters with all of my trials forgotten and my brain working overtime through the endless possibilities in any given story.
Recently, I was reading a book that questioned the idea of what normality is. Told from the eyes of a teenager, this book pointed out that we as individuals often look at others’ lives to determine if we are “normal” or not. There are images of what a “normal” family is supposed to be, a “normal” boy, girl or adult is supposed to be…it’s all very subjective and confusing. I can honestly say that I have looked at myself in the mirror more times than I can count and wondered if I’m normal or not.
The fact of the matters is, as Morticia Adams said, what’s normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. The concept of normal is relative – relative to our own experiences, our own desires and our own belief systems. Having lived in a number of different places, I have seen “normal” vary significantly from coast to coast, state to state, and even neighborhood to neighborhood.
The thing that crossed my mind when I was reading was that while all of us see normality as something different than the person right next to us, we fail to recognize this reality and therefore use our personal definition of normal to judge – and often prejudge – others and we use these judgements as the basis to discriminate. Take the struggles of the LGBT community. They are often plagued by taunts from conservative religious persons ridiculing them due to their “abnormal” actions or appearances. As a society, we tend to place individuals into a box labeled “normal” or “abnormal” and then work diligently to ensure those in the “abnormal” box stay far away from us. Oh sure, we say it’s for our own safety, for the protection of our loved ones, or to make the other person feel more comfortable, but in the end, it just makes it easier for us to aim our assaults.
Since it seems to be the conservative realm of individuals that prescribe what is normal and what isn’t as far as our individual actions go, it only makes sense to look at the Bible and see if there is a description of what “normal” is.
There are many references to how a believer is responsible for their own actions, but no description – detailed or not – of what a “normal” person looks like.
And I think there is an excellent reason for this.
God’s word doesn’t provide a definition of normal because there is no such thing as normal and this is because an extraordinary God is incapable of creating something that would be considered “normal” or “run of the mill”.
The God I believe in is extraordinary and all that He creates is equally extraordinary. All of our individual flaws, experiences and tragedies mold us into the unique being that God desires. The things that challenge us throughout our lives are what make us even more special to our Lord.
So does this mean that we can all behave in whatever way we want and there are no social norms we have to comply with?
As much as it may seem like perfection to say we can all behave the way we want to because that’s who God has created us to be, this isn’t true, either. See, while God didn’t provide a recipe for “normal” for us individually, He did prescribe a way in which we as a society are supposed to treat one another and it’s really the simplest recipe there is – and also the most difficult.
Love one another.
Our job as individuals is to love one another regardless of their race, creed, sexual orientation, or their definition of what normal is. “Normal” is indeed different in different neighborhoods, states, communities, countries and cultures – and THAT’S OK! If we simply love one another for who each of us are, whatever changes that are needed will be made because God will work within our hearts and minds to change us.
As I look around at the battles that are being fought today and have been fought for generations, it all boils down to the selfish desire to make others into reflections of ourselves. But the thing is none of this is about us individually. All that exists was created by God and is for His purpose, not ours.
It isn’t my job or anyone else’s to say that my idea of “normal” behavior and lifestyle is better or “more right” than someone else’s. This means that when I encounter, say, an Aboriginal tribe living off the land as they have for generations, it isn’t my job as a Christian to change the way they live – force them to put on Americanized clothing, start building houses that look more like what I expect them to look like and start acting more like me so that they can fit within my definition of normal. My job is to love them as they are – meet them where they are just as Jesus did for me – and allow Jesus to work within both that group of people and ME to change our hearts in the way that He desires.
So the next time you’re looking at another person or culture and thinking about how terribly abnormal they are, remember this. It isn’t our job to make everyone else the fly in our world of spiders. My normal is not your normal and we have God to thank for the blessings that arise from those differences.