Normal is In The Eye of the Beholder

A friend (EG) mentioned a book to me last week that I thought I had an interesting title. It was called Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them by John Ortberg.

I’ve decided that I *have* to own this book!!! I was hooked after the reading the “teaser” that Amazon provides. JO said everything I have been thinking for years about interpersonal relationships, or as he calls them, “Community”. I love how he cuts right to the heart of the matter in the first pages; I respect that kind of “In-Your-Face”-ness.

I first began to think about this subject in 1996, when I was living in Fort Smith, AR. Although I was involved with my Sunday School class and attended several Beth Moore bible studies over the course of the year I had lived there, I felt that something was absent from my little “Community”. At the time, I couldn’t quite identify what the missing piece was. Enter my future BFF (EG)…

I remember the very first time I saw her. She and her husband walked into a room full of strangers, and the first thing I noticed was that they looked completely different than everyone else. She had a super-cute, über-blond hairstyle and both of them were wearing clothes more suited to an urban area than po-dunk Arkansas. Having been accused of being “that weird girl from Fayetteville” (however jokingly) since my arrival there in the fall of 1995, I was relieved (and a wee bit excited!) to see someone else who didn’t appear to fit the “mold” that Ft. Smith seemed to impose on its residents. Needless to say, we became fast friends…

She and I began to attend the bible studies together, and soon realized that we were the only two people in the group who were sharing with the group what we had learned about God and how He was working in our lives. The others seemed to look at us like we each had 3 eyeballs, and would neither comment nor nod in polite agreement.

We began to wonder if what set us apart from the other girls in our group is that we both were acutely aware of the vastness of God’s love for us. In our teenage years and early 20’s, both of our lives had been nearly destroyed by sinful choices, and it was God that saved us from the depths of despair and turned our lives around. Our “good choices” on their own might have gotten us out of the “Pit” we had dug for ourselves, but we both knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was God’s grace that took our broken lives and formed them into what they became and what they are today. Reminds me of yet another of my favorite verses…

God sends others to “…give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.” Isaiah 61:3 (The Message)

I used to hide this verse in my heart and revel in the way that God takes the ugly messes that we make with our lives, and never fails to make something good come out of it. I think it can also apply to the people He sends into our lives to minister to us in times of need, to pick us up when we are down, and to comfort us when we are hurting.

The problem I’ve had in the past is that I expected everyone to be that hypothetical model of a friend to me in every situation. Consequently, I was disappointed when they didn’t live up to the standard of what I thought a friend “should” be. In reality, I was the one with the problem, not them. I was setting them up to fail by putting unrealistic expectations onto them.

At the time of the bible studies, EG and I considered ourselves to be Normal, and the others (by default) to be Abnormal. On the flip side, I’m sure they considered themselves the normal ones. It took me awhile to realize that the element needed to bridge that schism was Grace. Grace: The allowance to let others be themselves, and like them anyway. (Definition courtesy of Nikki’s Totally Abridged Dictionary) Ding! Ding! Ding! – that was what was lacking in my little “Community”. I had sensed it early on, but I didn’t truly comprehend it until I met EG, a Kindred Spirit, another person in life who would not only validate my thoughts and feelings, but polish them and empathize with me.

It was a pivotal point in my life when I realized that Normal is not a fair assumption to make of anyone. It changed my life, really. How could I presume to form genuine relationships if I put unreasonable expectations of “normalcy” on the people I call friends? After all, what is “Normal”, anyway??? We are all all unique creations, not made from the same mold of some arbitrary Standard of Rightness. Therefore, we all are worthy of a measure of grace in order to be understood and accepted by the “Community” we are a part of.

God delivered me from the prison I had imposed on myself with bars made of bias and judgmentalism towards others. Prejudiced thoughts once held me back from being a friend to others by meeting them where they are at a particular moment in time. But ever since God’s intervention, I am free! Free to see other people as warped and flawed and needy – just like I am!! Only, their dysfunction might be a whole different flavor o’ Kool-Aid. And the great thing about Kool-Aid is the variety of flavors keeps life interesting!

Thankfully, my vision of “Normal” has shifted from thinking something must be Perfect and Polished to actually seeing something as Defective and Stained. So now, when I catch myself thinking that someone is “strange” or [fill in the blank], I think, “Aren’t we all?!?!” If Normal is in the eye of the beholder, then maybe I need to wear corrective lenses from time to time…

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