The Problem With “Normal”

No matter how old I get, I never cease to be amazed by how God uses the ordinary things in life to teach extraordinary truths.   Many years ago, God used a conversation with a 15-year old French teenager named Florain to challenge my thinking.  Florian lived with us for a month one summer as part of a student exchange program.   During that time, I remember struggling to keep our family afloat by avoiding confrontation with our two very “normal” teenaged daughters and preteen son.  Why I said “yes” to having one more teenager live in our home remains a mystery to me, but I’m so glad I did!

When Florian joined our family,  he was appreciative of our hospitality and set about fitting in right away.  There were a lot of activities with our church youth group Florian enthusiastically attended with our daughters.   I suppose that is why, after living with us for about two weeks, a conversation I had with him so powerfully captured my attention.  He began our conversation with a question:

“Why are American teens so rude to their parents?”

(Bear in mind, the only American teens Florian got to know that summer were our teens and their youth group friends!)   I don’t remember how I responded except that I probably made the excuse that they were just “normal” teenagers.  It was Florian’s response that rattled and challenged me to check the basis of my beliefs with the wisdom and perspective of Scripture.  This is a paraphrase of what he said as he carefully chose English words to express what was on his troubled French heart:

 “Me and my friends, we don’t treat our parents that way.  We are taught to be respectful of our parents and elders.  We would never display such rudeness to our parents the way American teens do.  I do not understand why they are allowed to do that!”

I was stunned!  Here was a young man who came from a culture that was notoriously perceived as rude and arrogant by my culture, expressing shock and amazement at the arrogance of teens in our culture!  Huh?!!  It took me a while to realize how my acceptance of the cultural view of teens as rebellious and rude actually encouraged such behavior!   This revelation took me back to the basics of what I believe to help me figure out how to love my teens better.  It was through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit working in my heart that freed us to:

  1. Talk about sin as being rebellion against God- “sin is lawlessness.”  (1 John 3:4)
  2. We talked about our need for redemption and God’s faithful provision- “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:22b-24)
  3. From that point on we called sin what God says it is- Sin!  What we maybe tempted to excuse as “normal” does not diminish the consequences of sin before a Holy God.
  4.  We also took more seriously His commandment to love- “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”  (I Peter 1:22)

This brings me to the problem Christians must face today:  When we blindly accept what is deemed culturally “normal,” we set aside the blessing and protection given us by God in the Bible.  Sadly, by doing this we are every bit as vulnerable to the problems that plague the rest of culture!   In addition, there is no place for faith in this secular normalcy.  As time passes and “the separation of church and state” dictate the unacceptability of prayer in the public realm, can there really be any question as to the direction secular standardization is taking us?

This morning I was struck by Jesus warning to not be lulled into the seemingly “normal” routine of life.  Jesus knew His arrest was about to occur as He challenged His disciples to watch for His second coming.   What was chilling to me was in how He tied what was “normal” in the days before Noah completed construction of the ark to what would occur at His second coming:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”  (Matthew 24:37-39)

When we lose sight of the spiritual truths given us in the Bible (or remain ignorant of them) it becomes very easy to slide into eating, drinking and marrying with no thought of what is to come.   God gave us His Living Word to bless and keep us on His path of righteousness.   If you recognize that you too have been serving the lie of normalcy (whatever that may be) I urge you to go to God in repentance and faith in His Only Son.  Give thanks for His forgiveness as you stay close to Him through His Spirit and the Scriptures and as He blesses you with an extraordinary life!

All to His Glory!

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