By Gary Moore
Normal. Now that’s an interesting concept. When your 401(k) becomes your 201(k), when you are no longer able to travel freely, go out to eat, go to a sporting event or a performing arts presentation, or even meet with fellow believers for corporate worship, things are not normal — no matter how you define it. However you have defined normal in the past, my guess is that you’ve been forced to struggle with redefining that term for your personal world and the world of your family.
And, when we have to redefine normal, that usually means we have to redefine who we are since a big part of our personal identity is tied to our definition of normal. This is not an easy thing to do, especially when we are forced to do it quickly.
A new level of stress and concern has entered our world — and not quietly. One of the things that stress does is reveal our foundational strengths and weaknesses and magnify them. This includes your marriage relationship as well as your spiritual relationship.
Every household has what I call a baseline stress level. This is the “normal” level of stress that we have learned how to live with and expect on a day-to-day basis. At this level of stress, we have learned how to cope and relate with our spouse and children. We know what everyone’s emotional buttons are at this level and we know what it takes to push them and what the responses will be.
We need to be aware of the new dynamic that happens when our family baseline stress level raises dramatically and there is no longer a recognizable normal. Now a simple word, gesture, or facial expression may put you or your spouse into an orbit that you don’t recognize. Remember, you’re both not only searching for normal, but also searching for your new personal identity.
If you haven’t done so yet, you need to have a conversation with your spouse about this very topic. You need to reaffirm your love and care for each other and also talk about how your household baseline stress level has changed. And, how your ability or inability to adapt and cope with this change may cause you to respond in atypical ways. You need to also talk about a signal (preferably humorous) that you can give one another when you recognize and experience an atypical response from either yourself or your spouse.
I also encourage you, if you don’t already do so, to have a time of daily devotions together. In a world that seemingly has lost it’s true North, it’s important for you and your spouse to make sure your compass has the true North (Jesus Christ). And, that your plans and personal interactions are based on that true North.
Discuss with each other some of God’s promises. There are over 8,000 in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation we read of normal people, like you and me, that received the promises of God. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change.”
Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Psalm 119:90 says, “Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.”
Psalm 33:11 says, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”
Psalm 102:27 says, “But you remain the same, and your years never end.”
James 1:17 says, “…coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Isaiah 40:28 says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, the he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.”
So, understand as you go through the process of redefining normal for your world that your relationship’s normal is also going to undergo some changes. Don’t be surprised or upset at this. Expect it. Look for it. Embrace it.
Extend each other additional grace during this time of redefinition. Look for new ways to serve and reassure each other. Above all, reaffirm your relationship with the true North individually and as a couple.
Gary Moore served as associate pastor at Cloverdale Church of God for the past 14 years. He does couples’ coaching and leads couples’ workshops and retreats called MUM’s the Word. He also does a weekly radio program called Life Point Plus on KBXL 94.1FM at 8:45 a.m. on Fridays. For information on his workshops and retreats, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.