The Fiction of Normalcy

Those of you who are far older and wiser than I are probably going to wonder where the profundity of this post lies. I have the feeling that the revelation that I’ve gotten lately about the fiction of normalcy isn’t such a new thing to some of you. For me, however, the idea that I can really, truly, be content with chaos and tragedy and failed plans is a new concept. I’m finally working through the process of letting go of the idea that life will ever be as peaceful and idyllic as it was when Sam was teaching at Christian High and we had two preschool children and were preparing for our third. I even remember at the time thinking to myself how thankful I was that we had it so well –with one eye cast to when the other shoe would drop. I think even then I knew that that time was a gift, and not one to be taken for granted. We had a comfortable home, a steady job (or so we thought at the time), and peace at home.

We still have a peaceful home, but it’s a different kind of peace since Sam came home that day two days before my 32nd birthday and told me his contract at Christian High wasn’t being renewed. It’s not an easy peace. Sometimes it’s been a peace of resignation. Sometimes it’s been a peace of exhaustion. Sometimes it’s just been a peace of saying, “What now, God?” But, it has been peace, nonetheless, I now know. God is teaching me to trust him. Since my first taste as an adult of how God works in the death of Sam’s cousin Jeff and having totaled my car in an accident, plus losing a couple family friends in a year, I don’t think that trust has come easily or naturally at all. It’s easy to trust God with a road map. It’s easy to trust when you feel you know where He’s taking you. When the map is gone and it all turns to fog –that’s when it’s hard to follow just a voice, step by step, not knowing where the final destination or the route will be. I think I’ve taken for granted Abraham’s faith in following God’s directions to leave the land of his family and go –not knowing where or how. Just go. I never appreciated the faith of Noah, building, of all things, a BOAT, for crying out loud in the middle of the desert. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to explain to his family, then all the curious onlookers what this new project he was working on was for. I can’t imagine he really knew himself what it was all about. He just followed directions in faith. I’ve thought about it, but not really considered deeply how Mary’s faith must have been tested in carrying Jesus as a betrothed virgin. She accepted the gift of carrying the Messiah without even complaining about how she was going to save her reputation or explain it to her family. Lately, however, I’m not taking those examples for granted so much. Is faith really faith if it’s not tested? Perhaps there should be a different term for what we call “blind faith.” I guess we’d call that innocence? Ignorance? Well, the more days God grants me and the more challenges he sends my way, the more that ignorant innocence is transformed to something more like faith.

I am also seeing more and more how faith and grace are interconnected. You can’t have faith without grace. Without grace, the events of my life and the tragedies that surround me would turn me into a bitter, vengeful person. Sometimes I let them do just that, I am ashamed to admit. But about that time, I get a fresh glimpse of God’s grace, and all that bitterness and vengefulness is chiseled away. I still believe the forgiveness of man is sometimes a process –a commitment not to go back to holding on to hurts. I can’t do that on my own. One of the hardest and most comforting scriptures I’ve ever read talks about how vengeance is the Lord’s and he will repay. On the one hand, I feel a little miffed that I don’t get to do it myself –on the other hand, by letting God, who sees all things, take things into account and do the work of both redemption and vengeance, how many people will be saved from that vengeance in the process? That is a far more powerful thing than watching our enemies suffer, I’ve got to admit -especially when you figure in how many I have offended and how many things God has forgiven that I have done. Faith takes into account the fact that I only know part of the story. Faith helps us get out of the way and let God tell the story the way He wants it told.

I think that’s definitely the lesson for me lately. I’ve been trying to trust, totally missing the point that making myself trust God better is a little like a child trying to teach himself to read. Some things are so far beyond us that we need the intervention of God to really get it. So, I guess the next thing to do is rest in the fact that no matter what happens next or how badly I mess things up, God is still as much in control and still loves me as much as he does when he makes things easy for me. Finding joy in those times? That’s the next chapter. I’m still waiting on answers on that one, but they’re coming, day by day. Kind of like manna.

2 thoughts on “The Fiction of Normalcy

  1. The Stockdale Paradox: “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties AND at the same time Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be”

    It’s the confronting the brutal facts of your current reality, that never gets taught to us- we are just told to have that “blind faith” that you mentioned…. in between the balance of these two things- you find God.

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