The New Normal

1:33 AM

There is nothing on earth or heaven quite like the Christian experience. It's the only time you can trot down the driveway at dark, belt out praise songs and dodge bugs flying in your open mouth -- the only time you can sit down to write something deeply spiritual and drop a glob of salsa on your thigh -- the only time you can find peace amid so much pain. Let's face it: Christianity on earth isn't a trip through Candyland. It's very real, very gritty, very unspiritual, at times. One moment you're chatting to your friend about her awesome God experience and the next your baby sister is informing you of her, um, accident. (I really need to go wipe off that salsa.)

If you grew up Baptist, you know know know that besides hell is real, Jesus is the only way and America is the greatest nation on earth, becoming a Christian does not solve the aches and pains of life. In fact, it brings on more -- persecution and trials and tribulations and all that. I knew that. I sat under that teaching since infancy. Maybe that's why I missed it?

I don't consciously seek "spiritual feelings" or "God moments" or anything spectacular or out of the ordinary, but I do realize this deep need to experience God -- to not only read about apostles and disciples and ordinary Christians who did so but to do it myself. If God is real, then He is real. It should follow that this reality would become the new normal.

The new normal -- oh, something like sunshine breaking through a rainy day as I'm praising God or an encouragement showing up in my inbox when I'm struggling or an immediate quick fix when the pain just won't stop. My (subconscious) thinking goes like this: Pain, confusion and boredom result when I'm out of step with God. Therefore, when life hurts, when things are confusing, when things are just b-o-r-i-n-g, I've stumbled off the narrow road of life and lollipops.

But replaying the Scripture I immerse myself in and rewinding my life from the time Christ became supreme, I cannot see where this idea comes from. Christianity works itself in the every day -- the oatmeal breakfasts, snotty noses, and crummy emotions. It's joy in the midst of the trial. God is no more here in a soaring cathedral than on a trampoline where two people figure out life together in sticky June weather. It's God meeting me on the days when my emotions are shot and duty alone calls. God is no less experienced when defenses are down and boredom creeps in.

Christianity takes work. Hard, gutsy work. Practical stuff. No brainer stuff. So often I do my own thing and expect God to clean up after me. Sometimes I expect a miracle from God to inspire me to do what I know I need to do instead of doing things from a pure motive to love Him and -- yes -- experience Him. Examples:

-- When the bed is comfy and I stayed up too late the night before, I murmur a quick prayer to "please keep me awake for devotions" before dozing off between the pages of Micah 3. Actually, I ought to get up and move to the hard chair that inspires no dreamy thoughts and pray that God would honor my decision to study His Word even when I'm not feeling spiritual.

-- It doesn't take much recognize when I've sinned -- offended someone, worried, gone into faithless hysterics. I tend to fend off the Holy Spirit with one hand while throwing a private pity party, promising that if He'd just let me have my moment of crankiness, I'd be perfectly spiritual and holy the next moment. It really isn't that hard to repent, go to God and get back on track. It's just easier not to.

-- When life falls apart and everything in me screams for Instant God Experience™ (add water and stir), I often shut down and wait for a sign in the clouds. When I've been bounced back and forth by a million different ideas on one theological concept, my brain fries and I give up caring. I'm learning that, really, the miraculous happens when I seek and the answer comes when I grab hold and don't let go. It's nice when God drops the solution in my lap, but normally it takes a couple ounces of tears and frustration before the truth breakthrough.

-- Despite my opinionated (and often judgmental) spirit, I don't like confronting people about their error or sharing the Gospel. My excuse for keeping silent? "Oh, when God gives me words to say, I'll say them" or "Well, if God wants him saved, he'll be saved no matter what" or "You know, maybe it's best to sit back and live my life nice and Christian-ly and God will work through that. No need to drive him away!" I won't tell you how many opportunities I've missed. It's embarrassing. It's shameful.

The new normal on one hand isn't new at all -- people still rail at me for being an idiot and a jerk when I'm certain they ought to have noticed my Christ-like spirit; the atmosphere doesn't change when I'm praising the Lord; sometimes my prayers are really bad and boring; fasting makes me hungry no matter which way you cut it; and I get inexplicable colds right after a "spiritual" week and lose my voice when I'm supposed to teach profound truth. That's life. I'm living it right now. He never promised a spiritual bubble to protect me from less-than-flattering and less-than-spiritual experiences. But He did promise Himself in all of the mess and glory of Christian living. That's more than enough for me.

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4 impressions

  1. Very good thoughts. The Glory of God in the little stuff.

  2. This is so true and so lovely. We tend to think that God is only present during lovely times or expect Him to make the un-lovely ones lovely again, but we have to remember that His plans are far, far greater than our plans! And then, we need to "work out our salvation in fear and trembling." (Philippians 2.12)

  3. Exactly - you hit the nail on the head.

  4. Very well said, Bailey!
    Love the humor as well.


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