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!

Courage to Trust; Courage to Stand

The first time I asked God for help as a new believer I was stunned by His response: “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?”  Huh?  Back then I did not know HOW to respond to God’s “answer” that came in the form of a question.  Thinking that He misunderstand my question, I very carefully re-framed it.  Funny thing though, His original response seemed to hang in the air everywhere I looked: “Kathie, will you trust me in this?”  It took a while but over time I finally “got it.”  I eventually understood that, whether or not we fully understand what God says, does or allows, is not nearly as important as our willingness to trust in Him alone.  That is essentially the gist of what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote about the challenges of living on this earth in II Corinthians 5:

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” (Verse 7)  

Building a faith relationship with God often requires courage.  Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines courage as, “the ability to control fear and to be willing to deal with something that is dangerous, difficult, or unpleasant.”  The best way to  “control fear” is to interject our faith in God by giving thanks to Him for His love and mercy.   It is as we “live by faith, not by sight” that courage helps us face danger, difficulty and the unpleasant stresses that are part of life.

In an earlier entry I wrote about how a living faith requires courage to love and forgive.  (Click here to check it out.)   Along with loving and forgiving, a living faith may also call for courage to trust and to stand as God gives us strength.    I find it ironic (and somewhat amusing) that God called me to be a counselor even though I am fearful, hate confrontation and am a people-pleaser!  Were I to work with clients in my own strength, my counsel would be of little significance because much of it would be based on fear or strongly influenced by the opinions of  others.   What gives real meaning to the counseling process (and life in general) is the interjection of faith (commitment/courage to trust God) as His Holy Spirit and the Scriptures speak to the heart and mind.  Ultimately, the blessing for the majority of my clients is that as they rely on the Scriptures for guidance, they also discover their place to stand.

Are you facing a challenge that is overwhelming you?  Me to.   At times like these I am tempted to let my fears take over.  (Deep down, I want to be any place other than where I am.)  But that “answer” that came in the form of a question so long ago (“Kathie, will you trust me in this?“) continues to provide the courage needed to trust in Him.  The blessing is that when I let go of those old fears, He provides the courage I would otherwise lack to stand, to wait and to marvel as His amazing Plan is worked out.   I promise you, no matter what you may be facing, HE is so very worthy of your trust!

All to His Glory!