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The New Normal

The New Normal


This week I lost a good friend.  Not quite 37, died of what was quite likely a heart attack.  It’s never a good time to lose a person and it is especially hard around the holiday season.  Thursday was the funeral and I was given the privilege and honor of officiating.  I remember growing up, that my dad used to tell me that funeral messages are for the living and not the dead.  So what do I say to the family of my friend Keith at this time of year that could possibly give them any sense of comfort or direction as they lived life without their brother/father/son/friend?  They are stuck living in a “new normal”.  There it was- the title and basis for the message that I would present to encourage them in the midst of loss, in the midst of mourning.

            It reminded me of Abraham and the call that God placed upon him: "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you”.  Can you imagine God asking you to leave everything you ever knew behind and go forth?  Now in honesty, many of us have been in the situation where we have had to move from one part of a country to another or even to move to a new country altogether- so this is not completely out of the ordinary.  For Abraham though it was much more.  There was no moving company with a big truck that could move his whole house in one go.  Clearly stuff would have to be left behind.  There was not an airline or train or bus that would make the journey more enjoyable or efficient. Yet these are were not greatest of the issues that he had to deal with either.  More problematic was that he was to leave his country, his family and his father’s house behind.  There was no promise of a “job” and no defined “home” to go to.  In fact God simply said “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. In you all the families of the earth will be blessed."  Now maybe it’s just me, but the message is a little lacking on the details “front” and little too vague in what the blessing would actually entail.  At the outset Abraham’s old normal seemed like the better deal:  wealth, reputation, a home, a family; not to mention a sense of well being.  The new normal to which God was calling him seemed lack all of these things.

            When I was 17, my family was called to short term missions.  In many ways I was having an Abraham moment in my life.  At 17 I was none to interested in leaving all of my life behind for the call of God.  Its funny though- I am what I am today because of that short term missions experience.  Then I had no heart for ministry.  I was determined to make money because I hated the way that money was scarce for my mom & dad as they pastored a church.  Today I live for serving God in ministry full time.  Back then I wanted to trust in what I knew and could accomplish.  As it stands today I have no choice but to trust in the Lord to work out the details of life.  Outside of Him- I am standing on my own and that simply will not cut it.

            Let’s go back to Abraham.  The call was to go forth to the land that God WOULD show him.  Everyone catch the “future” tense of this call?  There was no map with an “X marks the spot”.  God would show it to him when God was ready.  The details were revealed little by little as time progressed.  Abraham heard from God that he would have a son.  An impossible feat considering that he and his wife were old.  On top of this Sarai was barren.  What is so fantastic about the story of Abraham and the “new normal” is the overall response of Abraham to the call of God on his life:  Yes Lord.  The text tells us that Abraham believed God and that  God credited it to him as righteousness.  Now ultimately this speaks of the salvation of Abraham.   And yet it is far more.  Abraham was choosing to walk in the new normal.  This is the place where things didn’t always make sense or seem even remotely possible.  This is the place where promises of God are painted in broad strokes- where the details are not sketched in.  It is here where God shows us the form of something, but little of the fullness of the picture. (Form and fullness- an interesting topic for another blog I suppose.  I will have to come back to that at another time).  The new normal is the place where life is sometimes terrifying- yet exciting.  Remember that scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade where Indy walks out of a cave into a cavern with a wide precipice and no bridge?  The line from the movie is: “Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” As the scene cuts to his dying father you hear Dr. Jones (senior) encouraging his son saying “You must believe boy, you must believe.”  Now this is definitely not a Christian movie, but let me highjack this story for a brief moment. The new normal is very much like the leap of faith that Indy was to take:  no bridge, no safety harness, no precautionary measures.  The voice of Indy’s dad is like the voice of God saying “Trust me with this, I got your back- just believe.”   The major difference thought is that it is not the worth of the one taking the leap of faith that is proved; rather it is the trustworthiness and reliability of God that is proved when we take the leap.  This is what living in the new normal is all about. 

            For my buddy Keith’s family, the new normal is living in a world without Keith.  There are questions like: God why Keith?  Why now?  What do we do to pick up the pieces of our hearts that are left on the ground as we mourn our loss?  For those who are reading this today you could have similar questions.  Maybe there are promises that God has made to that you are fearful to step into because the form doesn’t have any fullness yet.  The safe road always appears to be the old normal.  The new normal seems fraught with danger and can at time appear to lead to disaster.  God has called you and I to walk that path,  to say “I don’t know the way or what will happen as we journey together God, but I trust you to work those things out and to provide all that is required until I reach the destination.”    

Mood: uncomfortable
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