The Myth of Normal
A guest post by Malinda Fugate
“I am not enough.” How often that phrase runs through our minds and pierces our hearts!
It fits a variety of circumstances—not thin enough, not rich enough, not achieving enough, not happy enough, not stylish enough, not active enough, not smart enough—you know exactly how this goes. Disguised as a driving force propelling us to self-improvement, the tendency to compare ourselves to others in order to assess ourselves somehow only leaves us feeling discouraged.
“Normal” is a standard of measurement that strangely entices us. We look at what everyone else is wearing, watching, saying, eating, and doing. Then, we follow the pattern to fit in, not miss out, or make sure we’re doing what we should. Yet, when we start to really examine normal, we find that it doesn’t exist. It’s an imaginary set of ideals we’ve assembled in our minds as a tool to judge ourselves, often harshly and unfairly. It rarely encourages us and actually causes us to miss something extremely important: God’s goodness.
It happens easily. We see the people around us and look for trends. Our vision is distorted by what’s amplified in advertisements, on television or in movies, what we read, and the highlights we see on social media and around the internet. But a deep dive into each of these sources reveals that they aren’t reliable at all, because they aren’t accurately portraying reality.
They are telling a story, trying to sell something, or projecting a preferred ideal while covering up things that seem less desirable to share. If our standard of measurement is so inaccurate, how can we even confidently define normalcy at all? In fact, once we begin to thoroughly examine the real lives of the real people around us, truth begins to look very different.
The comparison game was not how we were designed. Psalm 139:14 famously tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We were given a colorful variety of gifts and circumstances for a reason.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul illustrates this point with a look at the human body. If the whole body were an eye, for example, how would it hear? Each individual part was created uniquely and with purpose. It isn’t sameness that causes each organ and limb to belong. It’s the special qualities that no other part can provide that make them crucial and included. So it is with us. Like a puzzle, we are all different pieces that fit together to make a whole, belonging together in community. We were never intended for sameness, so why do we keep striving for it?
Worse yet, this quest for normalcy invites discouragement when we inevitably don’t meet the mythical standards we perceive through comparison. Discouragement is also not part of God’s design for us. He wants us to live in the His joy! Scripture is full of encouragement, ensuring that God is always with us, is close to the broken hearted, provides gladness in place of mourning, and fills us with His hope. When we tolerate the discouragement that comes with falling short of “normalcy,” it’s unnecessary and disheartening. We can kick that to the curb as we cling to the light of God’s love!
Instead, we shift our gaze away from the myth of perceived normal and place our eyes on Jesus Christ’s reality. First, let’s embrace who we are, where we are, and how we are. May we celebrate our circumstances instead of constantly criticizing them.
Let’s trust that God is growing and maturing us, changing what is necessary while we follow Him step by step. We’re not talking about accepting sinfulness here, but contentment in God’s design. We can recognize that we were never meant to be the same as others, and, truthfully, others are also unique and different. Sameness was an illusion all along. When we embrace the way God made us and where He placed us, we can also embrace the people in our lives for who they truly are. This is heartfelt inclusivity and belonging.
Next, we must delight in our differences and seek their purposes. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s handiwork, created specifically to do the good works that God prepared for us. Often the messes we find ourselves in our what the Lord uses to help us grow and love other people. Everything, from our talents to our struggles, has value with Him. The very thing that is so difficult for us now is often what others find relatable and helpful as they struggle, too.
Finally, we talk to God. Communicating how we feel when we are discouraged and asking for a glimpse of the Lord’s perspective is how we grow closer to Him as we begin to understand and accept ourselves. If we can see ourselves through His eyes, we understand true beauty.
When we see God’s hand in our life’s journey, we realize how attentive He is to detail and how He’s working things out for our good. And when we start to see people with God’s vision instead of through our previous filters of insecurity, we begin to love more like Christ and demonstrate true belonging.
Our hearts will be so full of love that there will be no more room for discouragement. We will toss away the myth of normal and rejoice in the unique journey we are taking with Him.
Malinda Fugate serves as the Children's Education Director at a Southern California church and writes for God’s children of all ages.
Her recent book, The Other Three Sixteens, explores the reality of God’s love in our lives today.
She also created a children’s devotional, Bible Time for Active Kids, full of biblically-based activities to bring kids closer to the Lord.
Her passion is connecting people with God in tangible ways.
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Note from Alexis: Malinda’s message reminds me of the song “Pieces” by Meredith Andrews! Listen to it here.