Many years ago there was a movie titled ‘Leaving Normal’. I remember the premise was life changes in advancing years and the name of the town the actress lived in was ‘Normal’. Sort of play on words. For about six weeks this summer, I left ‘Normal’. I exchanged a summer-flexible schedule in Michigan for a totally non-committed boomerang schedule through Nebraska, Northern Michigan, and Colorado. Right. Boomerang. After all that, I feel like I’ve returned to a planning and organizing demolition project. If you’ve been on vacation or traveling, maybe you can relate.
I invested in a few tools to help with the chaos and clutter, so I’m hopeful. Not the kind of tools you carry in your toolbelt, but the kind that will help bring order out of chaos, support a healthy lifestyle, and provide spiritual reinforcement. We all need a starting place when it seems there is no recognizable place to start. I’m probably taking it all out of context, but Romans 7 really speaks to me when I consider how the clutter and chaos overwhelming my physical life could be synonymous to the clutter and chaos in my spiritual life. I can tolerate chaos more than a lot of people, but there’s a tipping point when tolerance is exhausted and turmoil dumps me headfirst into chaos and I have trouble exiting the spiral.
You might not recognize it on the outside, my old sinful nature is clamoring to do some damage inside. I’m a list maker, and what does a list maker do when there is too much to do? Make a list of everything to do. Right? If you feel like that right now, go ahead. Make a list. Here’s the thing. On that list, did you write, “Spend time with God”? Almost every single time, I have to go back and add that to the top of my list. Believe me. I’ve been making lists a long time and I still forget – but in the State of Confusion (which really does exist), well, God is the ultimate write-in.
Do you ever feel like if someone touched you, you would break into a million pieces because everything hurts from the inside out? It’s only the enabling from God working alongside you that gives you the strength and attitude to keep going. This is where Romans 7:18 comes in. “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Nothing good ever comes from allowing clutter and chaos to continue.
One benefit of working through the chaos in life is recognizing that it’s not that much different than the chaos in spiritual life. We need to be sorting out what to keep and what to get rid of on the basis consistent of what pleases God. Psalm 18:16 in the Message translations says it just about right. “But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning.” Then look how Psalm 51:10 adds incentive to keep praying, “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!”
Here’s a question to ask yourself. What is normal for me? Is my normal OK? Or is my life a mess? Should I leave Normal? Do I need to do some decluttering and exit the chaos created by poor choices, unforgiveness, lack of spiritual food, negative attitudes, selfishness, mixed up priorities, or maybe just not caring anymore. A friend and I are meeting weekly for Bible study and let me share what we have read every week. It’s hope, it’s confidence that we can benefit from the messiness of life and find the good in our circumstances – and it’s free. Here’s opportunity, a passageway to a New Normal: “We can rejoice, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3, 4
Start where you, attitude is a good place, and start sorting. Decide what needs to go and what needs to stay, what you should do less and what you should do more. Choose joy. Joy is an inside job. It keeps you hopeful and optimistic and focused while you find happiness, contentment, and you new normal.