Normalcy seems to be something we lament. We want vacations, excursions, new toys and technologies, and whatever else we can find to help remove us from the feeling of normalcy. Personally, when I feel I’m in a rut of normalcy, I become physically agitated and feel an impulse drive to mix things up.
I know of a pastor who ended up driving his car through the town park on his way to work one day for this very reason! It wasn’t a violent or careless act (he looked to see no one was there first), but it was a bit reckless (a mother and child wound up safely being where he could not see them…which created an awkward eye-contact moment).
I believe that a lot of our culture’s unhappiness stems from our disdain for normalcy. We work the same job, doing the same things, driving the same commute, seeing the same people every day and life loses its wonder. There’s nothing to explore or surprise us that isn’t without some form of inconvenience or emergency. Eventually, our minds foster practices of wandering to other places, people, and things. Before we know it, we’re living life on auto-pilot and no longer present to ourselves, God, or the people around us.
Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?
– Jesus, Mark 8.18
Normalcy often numbs my ability to see. I’ve seen the sun rise and set many, many times over; why should the colors still fascinate me? I’ve driven around the city more times than I can count; why should I still appreciate the view? I’ve been around my friends long enough to know their good and annoying qualities; why should I still feel any gratitude for them when they haven’t done anything for me lately?
Years ago, I remember realizing how rarely I actually looked at Shawna’s face. I had seen it a million times, and just stopped looking; I mean really looking, like I did when we were first together. It resulted in our becoming distant from one another. I had to let my eyes be open again and savor normalcy. The fact that her presence is a normalcy in my life is one of the greatest gifts! As I began sensitively looking at her in the eyes again, I was quickly and consistently struck with how beautiful and significant she is to me. Sensitively seeing her beauty again has made my days brighter, my mind more alive, and our relationship richer.
The experience I’ve had with seeing her can be applied to all areas of life. Here are a few ways to practice savoring normalcy:
Do whatever it takes to interrupt your insensitive way of thinking and take an active role in directing your attention. When your mind is racing, stop. Be present. Maybe even laugh at yourself. I always find something to laugh at when I stop and see my unconscious behavior.
What is around you? Who do you see? How do you see God’s presence? Do you? Why or why not?
God, people, and the things around you are all real and present, whether we feel sensitive to it or not. Consciously and sensitively accept their presence, as well as your own.
Respond and behave in a way that shares in God’s presence and the presence of those around you. Choose Love. Doing this will bring each of us to the brink of our fears and ultimately free us from them.
Those four mini-practices help me shape a life that I want to be living. When I become insensitive to normalcy, I find myself fantasizing about other lives I’d like to live. But regularly stopping, noticing, accepting, and participating invigorates me with Reality.
There is far too much beauty and significance in the world being overlooked and ignored. Jesus teaches us to see correctly. There’s nothing normal about life. It’s in a constant state of dynamic flux; which an aware and sensitive soul sees. Christ lives with this vision.
Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and I asked her what she had observed. “Nothing in particular,” she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.
– Helen Keller, Three Days to See
I am here to give sight to the blind and to make blind everyone who can see.
– Jesus, John 9.39-41