Blessed are the Normal: Embracing our Non-sharable, Non-tweetable Life

How I'd like you to see me. PC:

I love to dangle my feet off mountain ledges. When I’m not hiking with my kids I climb and scramble until I find the perfect cliff for my weary feet. And better still, my wife often follows me and takes epic pictures of my precarious position.

And what do I do with those pictures? What any social-norm-abiding person does: make them my latest social media profile photo. I relish in the idea that people see these photos and think of me as daring, exciting, adventurous, and a little off-kilter.

In reality I’ve sat on one of the earth’s fragile edges for perhaps .0007 percent of my life. When put in these terms my photos feel a little disingenuous.

But that’s the game of our era: crafting a grandiose image of ourselves.

Never before in the history of humanity have so many people possessed the opportunity to build a public persona. And, if you’re like me, the temptation is to shape that image around a narrow, glorious vision of ourselves.

I wouldn’t call that evil or anything, but I do think we lose something in this striving for personal branding. I fear that we end up diminishing the raw and mundane stuff of life--the parts of our lives that don’t fit the persona: non-sharable, non-tweetable, non-filterable life.

The thing is, that stuff, that elemental stuff possesses its own glory. Most of my days begin with fluffy hair, a cup of tea, and bombardment by hungry toddlers. No filter will make these moments feel like a page from a magazine. And yet, I imagine that God’s heart concerns itself far more with this daily, perhaps ugly ritual, than with how I look perched on a slab of granite. And certainly, as I sit between my grubby little lads, barely awake, I sense a deeper view of life’s magic. I look down and see the gigantism of their adoration, a love burgeoning for me, even with my dirty flannel and waning hair. It’s as if I were seated on a precipice, looking out on the splendor of my life, rather than the grandeur of mountains not my own.

What I look like more often than not.
The more available a stylized life becomes for us common Christians, the more I think we’ll be tempted to bemoan the normal. The more hollow we’ll feel as we pour cheerios into a bowl for dancing kiddos. The more discontent we’ll sense walking through Target with our spouse. The more we’ll suspect ourselves to be failures at our boring jobs. When in fact, God longs for us to find a full life not out on the lofty slopes but in the arms of our family, the clasp of our child’s hand, the labor of our vocation. There in the normal God’s Spirit intends to meet us, comfort us, and bestow peace.

Unsurprisingly, I think Jesus can help us come to value this granular stuff of life--the things that make us who we are through slow, often ugly, grinds. Take this simple story of Peter’s (Simon's) mother-in-law for an example.
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them (Mk. 1:29-31, NRSV).
Jesus’ life-saving, darkness-invading power liberates this woman to do what? To return to normal life. He heals her and she doesn't becomes a radical superhero of faith. No, she sets right back to something normal for her--she gets up and serves her family and guests. Jesus rescues her to be normal.1 Certainly Jesus inspired people to do cliffhanging feats, but he also blessed the grind, the common drags of human existence. He is not just the God of grandiosity, but also the God of the abundantly normal life.

In my own life I feel like Jesus has zeroed in on my illness, this addiction to be viewed heroically. His desire seems to be to impart a new and glorious meaning to my everyday, non-grand, flatlanded life. I can almost hear him say, Blessed are the normal, for that’s where the magic is.

1 Sometimes this story gets ragged-on in academic circles. Some accuse it of restricting the role of women to household duties. I think that adds something to the text that isn’t there. It doesn’t say that Jesus commanded her to stay in her place and never do anything else. In her culture she may have actually felt great honor to be able to adequately care for her guests. Plus, Jesus’ ministry can hardly be characterized as putting women in their place. He routinely flipped social norms on their heads when it came to women.


  1. Matt, I loved your blog today. I totally agree. Normal is the stuff of life. I've been recently musing over a similar concept. We often idolize extreme people. It's what we do. My family and I recently saw the movie, "Free Solo." Wow, what an experience! We say, what an amazing guy to climb El Capitan without ropes. But even the movie itself brings up a number of ethical questions about the experience and the man. Who is greater, the extreme personalities or the average, faithful, loving personalities? And to add to conversation, was Jesus extreme or was He perfectly average?


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