My observation of the last few days is that there is a fight brewing over what “normal” means.
Our nation and society doesn’t have a common definition. It never had to define normal before COVID-19. Everyone was on the same page – or at least it seemed that way. I actually don’t believe there was a common idea of what normal was. There was a common belief about what to expect as normal though. That’s not the same thing. Normal wasn’t completely healthy, but what was happening was expected. A global pandemic exposed that expectation as fraudulent.
Normal was defined as expecting there to be poverty, sickness, inequality, exploitation and oppression, violence, abuse, narcissism, idolatry, worshipping money. Some of normal also had some good things too – community, family, meaningful work, impact on lives, care for others.
Like everything else in this nation, there seems to be a push to politicize – or rather partisanize (if that’s a word) – what normal is. Let me say this – I’m sick of it. I’m just plain tired of the push to partisanize every damn thing. I’m tired of partisan politics thinking it gets to define everything. I’m tired of the false god of partisan loyalty. It’s literally killing people. And I refuse to worship at its altar that is stained with human sacrifice.
My observation is that there are at least two definitions of normal in this country. And the definitions don’t match up. They don’t align. They don’t share anything in common. It’s as if there are two different countries who happen to live in the same shared space, but very different from each other. The two countries have different sets of values, different sets of truth, different authorities, different constitutions, different forms of government, different cultures, different views of science and expertise, different ideas about money, and even different gods.
Both countries think they are right and the other one is wrong – but not just wrong – dead wrong.
I’m tired of it all. That’s my reality. There are people who are struggling to survive in the midst of a pandemic. There are people who are struggling with housing and having food. There are people who are losing jobs. There are people who are literally running out of money. There are people who are getting sick. There is a great deal of stress and anxiety and it grows. And yet…There are some who ignore all of this because they feel the need to fight over “normal.” I’m just done with it.
Here’s my definition of normal:
“…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
(Source – Matthew 25:35-6, NRSV)
“‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’”
(Source – Mark 12:28b-31, NRSV)
“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(Source – Matthew 5:43-48, NRSV)
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
(Source: Matthew 5:1-12, NRSV)
I’m not going back to the old expected normal. It wasn’t normal at all. I’ll keep the good parts and ditch the rest. They don’t have to go together. Now is the time for followers of Jesus to live by the values of the Kingdom of God. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to follow what Jesus says and that is my intention. It is the new normal for me. I will screw up following the new normal because I am sinful and broken. But God will pick me up and set me right to go at it again. This is my new normal regardless of what others may do. It’s what I expect going forward – not for everyone else, not for the world – but for me. The world’s version of normal is a disappointment I’m not interested in participating in anymore and lying to myself that it is in any way normal.
This is an opportunity to re-define normal. What is your normal going forward? And more importantly, how can I support you in living into that normal?