So Long Normal: What’s So Bad about Normal?

INTRODUCTION

Leader, read this section aloud to the group:

Have you ever tried to grab your breath on a cold morning? It may seem like an odd question, but it’s undoubtedly something we’ve all tried to do at some point in our lives.

Catching our breath is like trying to maintain a sense of “normal.” And at some point along the way, I realized the normal life I sought was like a vapor. Whenever it appeared within reach, I was unable to grasp it.

Normal.

It’s a fairly subjective word, yet we all seem to understand what it means. Normal is often defined as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical or expected.” And it seems to be the gravity we seek with an innate desire to have our feet planted on something solid rather than having our lives suspended in mid-air. Normal appears to offer the steady we want, the comfort we need, and the accountability required to keep us on task.

As anyone who knows me can attest, my life has been anything but dictionary-definition normal. My idea of normal came crashing down when my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor during the second year of our marriage. After his diagnosis, a complicated surgery, concerning days in the ICU, and a long recovery at home, Martin still lives with short-term memory loss and a substantial vision deficit. His inability to see well or remember the smallest details make our life as a family anything but normal.

My story may look different than yours, but each of us has something in our lives that has forced us to let go of whatever normalcy we envisioned. And I’ve lived long enough to know no one’s life has turned out exactly the way they had planned. Every one of us has endured uninvited change. Every one of us will again be forced to wave goodbye to normal.

But there is something deeply comforting about the normal ordinariness of life that draws us to this ideal. We all long for security, for stability, and firm footing. In fact, we crave it. Have you ever wondered why we crave it? I believe it’s because we were designed by an orderly God to thrive in an orderly world. But then sin happened, and the steady path beneath the feet of humanity shifted and became shaky. Ever since, our normal has been distorted.

Just like Adam and Eve, we have no choice but to say so long to a normal life and step out beyond the garden of our lives until Jesus returns and the garden is restored.

Believe this: whenever our life shifts and shakes, it’s ultimately for our benefit that good things are shaken from our grip, even when it feels like a loss. My hope for you and me is that whenever we face the loss of normal, we encounter God. And not in a way that puts a spiritual Band-Aid on the grief we’re experiencing, but in a way that helps us recognize God is working in and through our circumstances beyond our imagining.

When God is our foundation, we can learn to say so long to normal and all the good things God lovingly shakes from our lives. But first, we have to acknowledge our desire for normal and how it affects our everyday lives. Let’s do the hard, courageous work together.

God is our sure and steady hope who guides us to embrace the beautiful story unfolding before our very eyes as we say so long to normal.

TALK ABOUT IT

Take 10–15 minutes to respond to the opening message from Laura. Then take turns answering the following questions in preparation for the video teaching. Use this section each week to get your hearts and minds focused and ready for Laura’s teaching.

  • Share about a time in your childhood, teenage years, or adult life when you felt less than normal. As you look back, what factors contributed to this feeling for you?

—or—

  • What does “normal” mean to you?

WATCH VIDEO SESSION ONE (17 MINUTES)

VIDEO TEACHING NOTES

As you watch the video teaching for this session, use the following outline to record anything that stands out to you.

A departure from normal

What is normal anyway?

What would it take to feel normal?

Leaving normal for adventure with God

Saying goodbye to normal requires a heart change Finding freedom, peace, and joy

Hebrews: the book of “better things”

Shaken (Hebrews 12:28 and Haggai 2:6-8)

God as the source of our shaking

The faulty foundation of our lives

God’s calling to us

Saying so long to normal

Having courage isn’t about the absence of fear. It’s acknowledging that fear and being willing to take that next step anyway.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read each question and take time for group members to give honest and thoughtful responses.

  1. What comes to your mind when you hear Laura talk about this idea of being normal? What are some of the negative connotations and positive meanings of the word normal?
  1. Where does the pressure to feel or be normal come from for you? Is it an internal idea or an external pressure? Briefly explain.

It doesn’t matter if normal is something you never knew, something you’ve always tried to attain, or something you’ve grown tired of, you’re invited on a thrilling journey to leave normal because what God has in store is better.

Select volunteers to read the following passages aloud to the group and discuss the questions with each:

Hebrews 12:25-29 ESV

  1. What are some of the “good” or “normal” things that consume your focus and crowd out God’s invitation to you to live with a kingdom mentality? What could you do to refocus your attention and your priorities?
  2. What does it mean for us to receive an unshakeable kingdom? How have you sensed God shaking up your life?

Our loving God not only allows the shaking in our lives, but he is at times the source and the cause of our shaking.

Select a group member to read this passage out loud:

Haggai 2:6-10 NIV

  1. In whatever shaking you are experiencing right now, what emotions rise to the surface? Are there any positive results of this shaking?
  2. Tell about some of the ways you’ve watched God shake things up for someone close to you. How did things turn out for that person or group of people? What did you learn by watching the situation?

God shakes the less sturdy things out of our lives out of his kindness and mercy.

Select a group member to read this passage out loud:

Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

  1. Laura shared her zipline story and the courage it took to let go and trust God. Where do you need to let go and trust God? What is one area of your life where you need to surrender your longing for normal or let go of your tight grip for control?
  2. What is the “immeasurably more” you are asking God for right now? In what situation do you need God to give you faith to believe he can do something good?

God promises to do more through us than we could ask or imagine.

Memory Verse

Commit to memorizing one verse or passage each week as a group, as you practice saying so long to normal. This week’s verses are:

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. — Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV

CLOSING PRAYER

Spend time in your group praying in some of the following directions:

  • Pray for your group members as they seek to understand the longing they have for normal or the sense of security they get from normal in their lives.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to show you areas in your life where you need to let go of normal and say yes to God.
  • Thank God for how he shakes things up in us to loosen our grip on the things we hold tightly in order that he can do more with our lives.
  • Celebrate the fact that God exceeds our expectations and our imagination for the courageous and adventurous life he calls us to live.

Record prayer requests for easy reference to pray for one another throughout the week.

*  *  *

Your Turn

We’d love to hear your thoughts on So Long Normal. Join the conversation in the comments.

 

 

Laura Story

Laura Story is a Bible teacher, worship leader, bestselling author and Grammy Award–winning singer/songwriter known for such hits as “Blessings,” “Indescribable,” and “Mighty to Save” .“Blessings” was certified gold in 2011 and inspired her first book, What If Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops. Laura’s music and writing show God’s love and grace intersecting with real life and serve as a reminder that despite questions or circumstances, he is the ultimate author of our story, as told in her second book, When God Doesn’t Fix It. She has a master’s degree in theological studies and a doctorate degree in worship studies. She has served as a worship leader at Perimeter Church in Atlanta since 2005, but her greatest joy is being a wife to Martin and mother to Josie, Ben, Griffin, and Timothy.

Follow Laura Story on:   Facebook   Twitter   Website

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