The more I thought I about the idea the more I wondered what "back to normal" really means.
- Does it mean we are able to "get on with our lives?"
- Does it mean we are able to "go back to the way it was before?"
- Does it mean we can "put this all behind us now?"
- Maybe it means we are finally "over this hurdle?"
Over the past twenty some years of ministry I have heard more people use such expressions as they were walking through a challenging juncture in their lives. It might have been a tragedy, a struggle in their marriage, a wrestle with an addiction, or deep and abiding sin issue they were working through. All they wanted was to get over it or through it so they could get on with their life.
Personally, I have realized how easy it would be to approach this journey as a process we have to get through. And yet, what I am discovering is when you look at a moment of suffering as something you have to "get through" many times it never gets through you. Basically, you end up jumping over a slew of hurdles, thankful each part is over so you can "get on with your life."
Divine interruptions are not easily stepped over and forgotten. Such moments forge in us a depth of faith that would have never existed without such a detour in life.
Without a doubt, this momentary time of trouble has served to be a shaping time in my life. To be honest, there have been times when I longed to have this phase over so we can get back to normal. But what's really normal? Normal has been changed because life has been altered.
Normal is no more.
Normal was last summer. A healthy wife. Kids off to camp. My head into my work. That was normal.
And yet what I've realized is when life is "normal" I find myself taking much of it for granted. I end up doing life, because I'm always getting on with my life. I cruise through conversations, get my head bogged down in a task-driven mindset, and scurry through my day truly believing I accomplishing a lot, only to look back and wonder what all I really did. That was what normal was last year.
This year we have acquired a "new normal." It's packed full of unexpected turns leaving us wondering what might be behind the next corner. It's giving us a photo album of pictures from a year ago when so much was different, and at times leaving us longing a bit for a some of what we had back - again a longing for the normal.
We were praying and hoping Laura's pathology report would reveal a full cancer free diagnosis. This would mean the reconstruction phase would be our next target and then we could get this deal behind us. But, again the Lord has another plan.
Laura's tumor was gone! We are praising God for such a report. Her surgeon today told us the type of cancer Laura has does not always respond favorably to chemotherapy, but for Laura it did. The 5 cm tumor was gone and there was no more cancer in the tissue! However, two lymph nodes were positive. This tells us there is a high probability the cancer was in more lymph nodes then we originally believed. It also indicates radiation is the next course in the treatment plan, which in turn means final reconstruction will not happen until March or April of 2013. A gentle reminder life is not getting back to normal as we had hoped.
Trouble transforms us. It either makes you bitter or better, but you have to decide in many ways which one it's going to be.
If going through your trouble means getting "through it" so you can "get on" with your normal routine - then you are probably missing a glimpse of what the trouble can forge in your life. Chances are you could be missing what really does matter as a result of such a detour the Lord has allowed to take you on.
Our detour has convicted Laura and I to challenge our kids more with the truth of God's word. We want the Word of God to become a "normal" tool our kids grab hold of when trouble comes their way.
This past Sunday we spent some time around the table reading the parable of the sower from Mark 4. We talked about the four paths the seed landed on - dry path, rocky path, weedy path and good soil. Laura explained to the kids trouble is going to come into their lives. Jesus made it very clear trouble will come our way. During trouble you can run from God or to God, and particularly to the truth and power of His word. We explained during this time we are hanging onto the truth of God's word and the promises it reveals to us about His character, and purposes for our lives. The enemy loves to take trouble and use it to turn our faces from God. The Lord longs for us in trouble to turn our faces toward him. One way you are able to do so is to get into the Word and the Word into you so when trouble comes you have words that are going to hold you. It's a new normal we are shooting for in our family because of this journey.
My normal right now is undefined.
My trouble - this momentary trouble - is redefining me.
These past few weeks:
- I've been ALLOWED to care for Laura in ways I never have before.
- Our conversations have gone places they never would have without cancer or this journey we are on.
- My kids have grown - they still struggle to pick-up after themselves. Sometimes they are not always self-motivated. They still fight with one another. I have to prod them a bit to get moving or stay focused. Yet, they have developed a depth they never had before all this surfaced in our lives. They ask deep and honest questions. They are more open with their thoughts and feelings. Their prayers, even Bella's, are going to deeper places. We are seeing character forged in each one because of this time of trouble.
- My work has not consumed me. As hard as it has been not to enter into work related conversations I have fought hard not to make such a move. There have been some weak moments - but for the most part I have resisted the urge. God, Self (if I'm not healthy nothing else will be), Wife, Kids, Friends, Work - this is the new normal I'm banking on - I'm learning.
- My personal time with the Lord has become richer. Maybe it's because I know the Lord has been and is going before, beside and behind us each step of this journey.
So, I have no idea what it would mean to get back to what was normal. Such a normal is bound up in a picture album from a year ago. There are times when those pictures create a longing to go back a bit. I'm different from a year ago. Laura is as well; however, we now have a new normal, and we live with a new reality the Lord is truly in control. His plans are not our plans, but He does have a hope and and a future for us. It may never involve cancer again. It may. Whatever it is, I know He will walk with me through it as it works its way through me. I pray it becomes my new norm for the manner in which I approach trouble in my life.