So, You Want To Go Back To Normal?
We are, for sure, in uncharted waters as a nation and even as a global community. So much has happened so fast with so many potentially life-changing ramifications. It seems like everything is in upheaval mode and no one knows when things will get back to “normal.” I have heard this cry for a return to normal from people from all facets of life. When things go haywire, personal control goes out the window, and the human mind goes into scramble mode wishing for the “good old days” of what life was like before the crises exploded. I wonder, though, do we really want to go back to normal?
It is natural to romanticize the past when the present is not pleasant. We tend to gloss over all the pain, suffering, boredom, and even bondage of what yesterday’s normal was like because there is so much new, scary, and unknown about the today we live in. The human propensity to want to be in control of what is normal comes from the center of gravity being located in the wrong place. Gravity is an unseen force a body of matter possesses that has the power to hold things together by pulling objects to the center of itself. So if humanity is going to exist apart from trusting in a loving, caring, personal God as the center of the universe, it has no choice other than to shift the center of the universe to within themselves.
Gravity, working properly, will create a delicate balance where life can ensue. The mistaken and misinformed belief that all humans will want to share this center of gravity amongst themselves has produced ALL the pain and suffering that human history records. When the center of the universe is in a tug of war between billions of souls who want to control their own destinies, the end results will create black holes where the more powerful souls among us begin to exert the gravitational pull of their view of what normal needs to be and will suck the life out of those around it. So, is the answer to the upheaval and shifting tides of these trying times for life to just to get back to normal?
Here is a dictionary definition of normal: “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.” At first glance this sounds comforting. But read it again. Life becomes typical and expected as it is conformed to a standard. This sounds more like the programming for a robot than the recipe for a fulfilling and meaningful life! The inner urge to stay alive is perhaps the most powerful natural (normal) dive embedded within humanity. This must be normal for humans if they are to continue to exist. People will go to extraordinary measures to stay alive. However, human history has recorded such horrific events as mothers eating their own babies to avoid starving to death. How far can extraordinary measures go?
Most of us could never imagine being so driven that the need to survive would even entertain a thought like that let alone act on it. As barbaric as it sounds, if the problem of starvation continued, this behavior could eventually become normal! So if normal is the expected outcome of conforming to a standard, then normal produces survival, and normal can then be seen as natural. In other words, whoever (or whatever) sets the standard will determine what is normal and by default, what should be natural. It is then natural for us humans to want to get back to normal so we can get about the business of surviving. That’s what we really want, isn’t it?
The big problem with this whole back to normal thing is that part of the definition about conforming to a standard. Our English word, standard, comes from an old French word meaning a flag raised on a pole (the standard) that serves as a rallying point. The standard was an upright wooden timber and the flag depicted some image or color that defined who the people were and what the people believed who were gathering around (or to) it. The flag told the story, the wooden pole, set straight and true in the ground, represented the “standard” of beliefs and behaviors of all who pledged allegiance to it.
In America we have a flag that represents the story of a nation that was born out of a cry to break off the shackles of tyranny and oppression. The stars, stripes, and colors all tell a story of a people who have rallied together under its waving glory and who have, “pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America… one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” This is a beautiful Edenesque call for humanity to rise above the morass of evil and come together to live in peace and harmony where everyone is equally endowed with value and worth.
The magnificence of this pledge rests on the phrase, under God. The assumptions on the part of the framers of the constitution of our great nation was that a central rallying point was needed to bring people from all different persuasions together and for them to agree that being a nation under God was the determining factor in its future success. This under God motief was woven into the fabric of the rules of law that were set down with the hopes of ensuring that all who pledged allegiance to our flag would have equal access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Such a noble attempt- but it has a fatal flaw. The underlying belief is that pledging allegiance to the flag would by default control the beliefs and behaviors of its citizens by defining what is expected (normal) and keeping society conformed to the narrative of the nation. The fatal flaw comes in the form of one seemingly insignificant grammatical change. Anyone, at any time, can change the uppercase “G” in God, to a lowercase “g” and thereby open the door to, ...one nation under gods. The framers of the constitution did not go far enough in raising the standard. I wonder what our nation would be like today if the Pledge of Allegiance read like this - “one nation, under Jesus Christ, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?”
We are truly now one nation under many gods. With many gods, come many moral standards and none of them can claim absolutism, which would be tyranny all over again if they did. When we cry that we want to go back to normal, who’s normal are we referring to? My normal can be completely abnormal to the next guy. Is it the normal of the political and governmental leaders that are tasked with developing codes of civil law that aim to curb crime and rid society of undesirables and their actions? We all know by now that morality cannot be legislated. Is it the normal of special interest groups? Is it the normal of the entertainment and sports industry? Is it the normal of an educational system propped up on the faulty science of evolution and humanism? We say we want to go back to normal, but just how back are we willing to go?
I am sure that we could all pick a reset point for our normal that represents what is good, workable, and comfortable for us to live and thrive. Perhaps in the 1950’s when the “Leave it to Beaver” life was flourishing and the “American Dream” was a reality for many. Perhaps further back before all this technology stuff was cluttering our minds and the marketplace? Perhaps for some a back to normal point does not exist so fantasizing about some future normal that represents life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be realized when we humans finally figure out the secret to getting along.
Does a reset point exist in human history that could set the moral compass back to true North? I believe that there is and that it is a reset point that represents a normal that is designed by God, with an uppercase G, to work for every human if they would put aside their notion of one nation under gods and rally around a standard that was raised some two thousand years ago. God set a standard, upright and true, into the ground on a garbage heap outside Jerusalem in the form of a cross. God, Himself, Who came to earth as Jesus, allowed Himself to become the flag that was raised up for all the world to see what normal, fully realized, looked like.
Jesus cried out to the multitudes that were following Him, “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The names and faces change but the story line remains the same: deep down humans are longing for a place of rest and safety as they realize that what they have and where they are going is empty, futile, and meaningless.
Going back to normal is going back to the point where Jesus broke down every dividing wall that separated humanity from a loving, self-sacrificing God and every dividing wall that separated humans from one another. Normal is a state of being where divine love crushed the spirits of pride, hatred, greed, and every other diabolical lie foisted upon humanity when our original parents decided to set out as gods of their own destiny. Normal is the place where humans realize that they were created, by God, and the only normal way to have a normal life is to make this truth the reference point for all normalcy.
With this reference point we are able to make sense out of all the chaos by building our lives and our societies on unchanging, absolutely trustworthy, truth. Truth that is true for all people, from all places, for all time. Truth that does not originate from human inventions of what is good for most, but truth that is good for all. Jesus said about this truth, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Jesus was not referring to learning some new religious code that would solve the world’s problems. Jesus was talking about Himself. Jesus is truth.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus declared, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all unto me.” He was speaking about His impending death when He would be nailed to a wooden pole and raised up like a flag for all to see. This flag is forever waving in the wind of God’s Spirit of love that still calls out, “come unto me.” If there was ever a rallying point and a time to rally around it, now is that time. Indeed, everyday is the day of salvation for humanity.
For those who know Him, raise this banner unashamedly high over your life as a testimony and a beacon of hope. There are masses of people looking for a new normal and longing to pledge allegiance to a new Kingdom and who are waiting to be introduced to the King. The stage is set for a fresh revelation of the true light of the world as darkness and gloom are thickening with impending doom.
For those who know Him, we are standing at a crossroad with some decisions to make. Before us lies a land filled with giants of relativism, humanism, and every other -ism that stands in the face of truth with arrogant smugness. We have a decision to make. Either we forge head on into the mosh pit of our messed up culture, holding up our banner, or we go back to our normal life where things were not necessarily great, but were manageable.
This moment in history reminds me of another moment in history. Millenia ago, the young Israelite nation was facing the same challenge. They were facing some literal giants that lived in the land across the Jordan river, the land where they were headed to establish, “one nation under God.” The call went out, the report was given, the consensus among the overwhelming majority was to abort the mission and go back to normal - to Egypt.
The call is going out, the report has been given, the “Jordan River” stands before us… Do we really want to go back to normal?
by Pastor Jim Anan