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  • Katie Smith

Is this normal?

In all my pediatric medical experience (which only amounts to a little less than a decade of intensive motherly care units), I've witnessed the difficulty doctors face in accurately diagnosing an average outcome for one, individual, unique body. My once medically fragile son went back to the emergency room a month ago because of an appendicitis scare. It turned out to be a combination bacteria and virus, but what struck me, was the doctor's questions about his G.I. system.

We endured endless dialogues about this abnormality when he was a toddler. The gastroenterologist was never satisfied with his productivity or his growth because of it, especially once he started potty training. Due to his prematurity and muscular weakness, my son has never been "normal" in many areas of his life. Well we revisited this lovely conversation at our most recent ER visit, and after answering all the questions: "Have you seen GI for this? Does this concern you?" etc. I smiled, nodded, recalled all the copycat conversations, and finally she said, "So... this is just his 'normal'?"

I was surprisingly shaken after this dialogue. Was my son normal? Had I missed a chance to make his life more normal and therefore easier? Was his "normal" a state of concern? Oxford would define normal as "the usual, average, or typical state or condition." But that means there's an average. You must poll a large enough group in order to get an adequate representation. Still the representation of "typical or usual" must also consider differing environments, cultures, and a plethora of external or internal factors that adjust the entire average group.

In considering "normal" I was then left contemplating our upcoming living conditions. Many people would not consider it "normal" to have four boys grow up in a recreational vehicle, that is unless you call it an "adventure." We've noticed that many people coin it this way (understandably), but this will in fact be our normal life, not an added adventure to normalcy. There isn't a timeline to make it more normal. No justifications or temporary alterations. This is a semi-permanent change towards abnormal-living. But because I'm not a gypsy, a hippie, a conventional "missionary," or building a Youtube channel as a source of income, this "adventure" is not very"normal."

Our "adventure" will be our life. But isn't that true for everyone? Aren't we all on one big adventure? The page can turn and change course in an instant with a phone call, diagnosis, or unexpected event. Whether you're the abnormal homeschooler, abnormal single adult, abnormal single parent, abnormal wheelchair rider, abnormalities aren't bad if we understand that our condition passed through the sovereign arms of God before it reached us. Thus, when I look at my son who hasn't followed many "normal" patterns of development, I realize that there is no such thing as "normal." There is simply what we have made "typical" in our sphere of influence.

Therein lies the challenge and the natural tension. How can you live in such a way so as to not conform to your surroundings (Romans 12:2-- like Jesus did), but also become all things to all people emulating their comfort in order to connect them to Jesus (like Paul did --1 Corinthians 9:22)? Jesus didn't follow the "normal" religious leaders, nor did he follow the "normal" secular heretics. Instead, He demonstrated how we must constantly transform our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to be like His rather than conform to the "normal" around us.

And how do we do that? How do we transform and still live in this world? With three words: humility, truth and love. Renew how you view the world. "Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). Saturate on what is true. Read the rest of Romans 12. Jesus is so countercultural in His instructions for how to best know and do His good, pleasing and perfect will. It will thrill and delight you. Then you'll find NOT what is normal, but what is exceptional!

Here's to abnormal, exceptional living!

~Abnormally Careful and Careless

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