Wednesday, November 7, 2007



A friend of mine once told me that although his father beat him, he wouldn't deem his childhood abusive. For him, it was perfectly normal for his father to punch his mother in the face. That’s what dads did in front of 8-year olds when they were mad.

Clearly, my friend is an extreme example, but I think on some level, we all cobble together our own warped definitions of what “normal” means. Maybe yours doesn’t contain a violent father. Maybe yours isn’t anywhere near as neon wrong as his was. I don’t know your story, but when I dug into mine, it’s easy to see the pieces that weren’t all that normal.

For instance, I experienced some abuse in high school. (Not within the context of my family. My parents are awesome.) I didn’t give it that name at the time, but when it came out in counseling that was the label it got. I probably told that story to a hundred people, never once thinking they would find it odd. I told it in part because if I could laugh it off, if I could paint it with bright colors, I could delay the sting. But I also told it because it felt normal to me. I didn’t have a precedent for anything else. What happened was part of my story and my story represented 100% of what I thought was normal.

I think that ultimately, what God likes to do in our lives is get us to experience a new normal. A normal bigger than we can even imagine. A normal that makes no sense, like the welcome home party for the Prodigal Son. In his mind, it would be normal for the father to make him a servant when he returned to the farm after a period of wild living. Everything he knew pointed sharply to that reality. But instead, he got a party. Instead, his expectation of normal was broken apart and put back together.

There’s a new normal available, but I think you have to let go of the old one first. You have to get out of the pig pen like the son did and walk back home. To admit that you’re normal isn’t. Your ordinary wasn’t. Your common can’t be. And when you do, the only thing you’ll find waiting is a party. And that’s the best kind of normal there is.

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