What is normal? Is kissing your sister on the lips normal? How ‘bout kissing your wife on the lips?? Is it normal for some people to not be normal? A lot of people normally do things that are not normal. Normally when I brush my tongue with a toothbrush I choke a little. Is that normal?
When it comes down to it, probably no one can answer that question for me except me. Would you agree? I guess it would also depend on how personal or general I’m speaking.there are personal norms and cultural norms and maybe even universal norms. Living in Senegal has completely changed my understanding of normal.
I asked my friend Haurell to tell me a story the other day. I wanted to see if I could understand a story in French that I had no background knowledge of. Up until this point in our language learning we have listened to or talked about topics that we had a background understanding of or simply knew what the context was. He decided to tell me the story of when he moved from the Republic of Congo to Dakar, Senegal. The point of his story was to highlight the differences and the difficult changes that confronted him upon living in a new place. He then talked about how with time he made those changes and those very things that were strange are now normal.
Haurell could have told any story but I’m glad he told that one. I realized that he relates with me more then I may know. It also made me realize that normal can change so gradually you don’t even realize it until you talk about it. I’m not saying I’m Senegalese, but my normal has changed. For example, in the states if someone walked out in front of me while I was driving just because they knew I would slow down, I would spitefully speed up just to scare them. Now, people walk out into traffic every day. You have to! One time I almost practically climbed over the hood of a taxi to keep walking through congested traffic but I was stopped by a friend sitting in another taxi that was next to me. I stood in the road surrounded by taxies and walked alongside the vehicle talking to my friend as it crawled through traffic. That would never happen in the United States!
Does anyone remember Jellys? Those super girly summertime shoes that were most often sported in the neon pink color way. About 50% of the guys here wear them. How about holding hands with your homeboy as you cross the street or walk down a busy sidewalk? Another one is the traditional formal attire for a Senegalese man. Perhaps they look a little bit like old fashioned pajamas. Don’t even get me started on food. Thats a whole other subject. Most of these things are not normal for me but let’s just say I no longer notice them anymore This is change. I am creating a brand new understanding of normal.
The examples could go on for days and that makes me happy. Change is normal and normal changes. The paradox though is my realization that the very Person that causes my normal to change for good never changes. The Apostle Paul wrote “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. Perhaps the most significant change He has made in my life is that I am spiritually alive! There was a time in my life that it was normal for me to be dead. The Word of God perfectly explained this odd claim. Ephesians 2:1-10 says………
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in
our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. 4 But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, 5 made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved! 6 He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in [His] kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are His creation-created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
What is normal? Because of the perfect unselfish grace of the God that created and is sustaining all of existence, it is normal
for me to be alive. It is normal for me to be filled with hope and joy even in the midst of my own insufficiency and outcomes that I absolutely hate. It’s my hope that when people look at me or think of me, they see or think of Christ, even if they don’t like that. Because of God’s gift it is normal for me to be saved, loved and able to love others. It’s normal for me to be in situations that I don’t like but it is also 100% normal for God to give me exactly what I need for every moment. It’s normal for people to spend their entire life searching for and reassuring themselves of self-worth. In Christ, it is normal for someone to understand their self-worth and live in it! I pray that this would be true in my life as well as all of yours.
Folks, just give me a couple more months and maybe it will be normal for me to be seen wearing my Jellys and my pajama-ish attire while crossing the street holding my homeboys hand and brushing my teeth with a stick. Who knows?