24 years old. I remember the feeling of disembarking the plane that had carried me from Quito, Ecuador to the United States. I looked forward to eating cheeseburgers, drinking Mountain Dew and not struggling so hard to communicate. I had accomplished what I set out to do in completing the AIM program and was coming home. But as the days unfolded, there was something not quite right. Something was different. It was not just that my elementary-aged brothers had aged or my other siblings had already left home. Something was missing.
That something…was normal. I wanted to get back to normal.
Normal as defined by the dictionary means “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; regular.” Normal defined by our emotions is slipping back into a place where we feel safe, accepted, at home. Though we may not be able to put it to words we sense that we will know it when we feel it and we can become quite disoriented when we don’t. This shows up with significantly more intensity if we have longed for “normal”, only realizing on arrival that it has escaped us.
Peter knew normal. Normal was sitting in a gently rocking boat. Normal was feeling the weight of the nets as he tossed them into the sea. Normal was looking across at his brother and co-worker, Andrew, as he had done since he was young. But his normal gave way to something else. The traveling Rabbi wanted just a little at first, use of the boat as a buffer for the crowds. Then he asked for more: a dirtying of already cleaned nets, exertion of already tired muscles, pressing of already strained patience. But then Peter was a witness to the amazing. In that moment he was changed, humbled, compelled to confess. But then the Rabbi did the most peculiar thing. He didn’t let Peter slip back into normal. He called him out of it. He called him into the adventure.
This is you, fellow child of God who has taken the challenge of AIM. You experienced God, just a little at first, but He kept coming back for you: Inspiring you, causing you to dream dreams of great things. He wouldn’t let you go. So you signed on for the Adventure and, let’s face it, it was more than we all bargained for, but the fundamental truth is that you have changed. And when you return, you have this sense of missing something, sometimes it is subtle and sometimes it is crushing.
The reason this is true is the same for you as it was for Peter. God is using all aspects of your life to make you more like Him. As you change you become less and less comfortable with your surroundings. The AIM experience accelerates this dynamic, but you’re moving at such a rapid pace you may not notice its happening. Until it ends. And then all you notice is that somewhere along the way, you lost normal.
But the truth is that God never called you to normal. He called you to become like Him and this requires you to abide in Him and in Him alone. Any other place to abide becomes competition. Though he provides us with a place to live and work to do, even your physical body is to be considered a temporary tent.
All of us who are giving our lives to Christ are constantly being introduced to a new normal that is not tied to our physical surroundings. The New Normal is being with Jesus no matter where we live. This New Normal is being connected with Jesus’ body, no matter what language they speak or how they do church. New Normal is being engaged wholeheartedly in the work Jesus leads us in, no matter if it is at a university, a home, a factory or a church building. This New Normal is following Jesus. Within this new normal we will find true and eternal peace, acceptance and safety; our true home. Abiding here allows us to move through all the changes He will lead us in without ever losing our footing. May God give us eyes to see and the strength to follow in the new normal that He is leading us into every day.
Quito, Ecuador, 1992