“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
“Can’t you just be normal?”
I’m sure we have all had to face some form of this question at various points in our lives. It may have come from someone else, or perhaps we were just talking to ourselves out of frustration. We are trying to fit in and act in a way that seems peculiar. Perhaps we are struggling mightily with a particular task or challenge, or learning something new. Or maybe our line of thought just cannot connect with our surroundings. There are numerous possible situations.
With God and His Son, however, there is no such thing as normal. Jesus may have had an ordinary upbringing and worked an ordinary job until He was 30 years old, but He then stepped out of it and went about, spreading the news of salvation and advancing the kingdom of Heaven. His life was all about constantly risking everything, hanging out with the “bad” people, performing miracles, and saving and restoring lives.
For us, as Christians, there should be no such thing as normal, either.
At Creekside, our vision is to be ordinary people living the extraordinary way of Jesus. I’m all about key words, so let’s look at normal versus ordinary. The two are commonly considered synonyms, both meaning regular, but there is a subtle difference. The primary dictionary definition of normal is “conforming to the standard or the common type”, while ordinary is “of no special quality or interest”. This may not seem like much, but the critical point is that normal is always used in the context of human standards. It appears in the Bible just once, in 2 Kings 11 (describing soldiers’ regular routine), while ordinary is used numerous times.
This contrast highlights a danger that is constantly lurking in our lives: thinking of ourselves in comparison to others. I have struggled with this throughout my life. As a child and adolescent, I had to work hard and go through years of physical and social therapy to overcome facets of my learning disability, just to be able to function as an ordinary person – or to be what, in my mind, other people would consider normal. Even though I now know that God wired me the way I am for a reason, I still have the tendency to slip into a self-centered frame of mind when I have any kind of negative experience. I can easily stumble here since thoughts and actions in this state do not serve God.
Another danger is to consider the many instances of faith in action in the Bible (see Hebrews 11, for example) as a normal rule that we have to follow. These are actually amazing exceptions. God does give us standards to follow (such as the Sermon on the Mount) that the people mentioned in these instances have gone above and beyond. There is no rule for “normal faith” in the Bible because there would be far too many instances to record.
It is an incredible and important truth to grasp: as followers of Jesus Christ, we are not supposed to be normal. God has entrusted each of us with certain gifts and a unique design, so that we will stand out in certain ways, and seem deficient in others. Our abilities and our shortcomings are meant to be instruments to demonstrate and share His love, power and grace. The challenge is to develop a routine with God at the center, so that we are able to take both in stride and follow Him wherever He leads, at any time.
I invite you to pray this prayer with me: Lord, we invite You into our very core, into the center of our being. Take control of our thoughts and actions. Cast out anything that may cause us to center on ourselves in comparison to others, or a perception of how we may or may not be “normal”. Help us to react swiftly and properly to steer clear of snares or temptations. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Daniel can be reached via email here.