December 6, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

If you don’t fit the world standards, you’re in good company

Patti LambRecently, I had lunch with an old college friend when she came to town for a conference. Over quesadillas and fried ice cream, we brought each other up to speed on our lives and families. I mentioned that one of my children was struggling in a particular area, and opened up about my fears and concerns.

All I really wanted was someone to listen and tell me that it would be OK.

Instead, with the best of intentions, my friend, a successful pharmaceutical sales representative, dispensed a diagnosis and even recommended a particular medication. At one point, she said something like, “Maybe after you have [the child] evaluated, you can take proper action to get [the child] back to normal.”

Whoa, Nelly. Check, please.

My friend’s advice prompted me to seek counsel from a qualified professional. I relayed the situation and my concerns to this expert, asking how I could get my child “back to normal,” to quote my friend.

The professional chuckled and said, “Normal? Please.”

She continued, “Look around. Everybody’s got something.”

She explained that if we sit back and observe children long enough, we will find that each one of them has some sort of idiosyncrasy. She said that the same goes for adults. She went on to tell me that if I knew more about my college friend from out of town, I’d discover some ways that she and her family aren’t functioning so “normally.”

“I’m not sure where your friend lives,” said the professional, “but you and I live on Earth, and there is no normal or perfect here.”

Amen to that, I thought. I believe that everyone struggles with something, whether it’s cancer or a disease, weight, depression, guilt, debt, unhealthy relationships, resentment, anxiety or addiction—just to name a few. Some admit their struggles and others do not. But each of us is amiss in one way or another.

But there’s someone who understands our discontent better than anyone else. Jesus can relate to not fitting the mold.

Recall the Christmas story. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a young virgin and raised with the help of a stepfather. Jesus, the Messiah, wasn’t exactly the poster child for normal. This gives me great hope. When we find that we don’t fit in by the world’s standards, we’re in good company.

Instead of berating ourselves for not fitting the mold that society imposes, I’m learning that we should embrace God’s love for us, however broken we may consider ourselves. God uses us in such different—and often unexpected—ways. But as long as we’re right with God and do our best to serve him, it’s all good.

In fact, the more “normal” we are by Earth’s standards, the more cause we have to examine ourselves. When we have problems or struggles, we are more inclined to go to God, to make time to talk to him and ask for help and guidance.

God Calling, one of my favorite reads, contains a passage which explains that a relationship blooms as a result of our repeated interaction with God. A certain peace comes from that relationship. And that peace sustains us in times of trouble and doubt, when everything is abnormal and seemingly wrong. The key is to develop the relationship so that when life throws us curve balls, we do not abandon our faith, but embrace it and allow God to use us.

A young woman named Mary did embrace her faith more than 2,000 years ago. That’s why we celebrate Christmas.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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