Return to Normal?
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
It's been one month since Sophie passed away.
It's hard for us to even read that sentence and have to come to grips with that reality. This first month has felt anything but normal: filled with so many tears, so much heartache, so many angry prayers, so much distraught. Shock and Sadness are the headlines running through our minds: How could this happen? Why did this happen?
Is this really our normal?
We also had such a different picture of what normal would look like for our family in this fall season and soon to be holiday season. We had a picture of what normal family life would look like as a family of 5 with a newborn baby girl. Max turns 5 on Wednesday, his family birthday party is this weekend and he should have BOTH of his sisters with him. My birthday falls on a Sunday in November this year and I should have Sophie to snuggle with in the afternoon for my "Preacher's Nap." We will get to see family over Thanksgiving and Christmas, all of which should included introducing our sweet Sophie June, relatives vying for the opportunity to have some sweet Sophie snuggles.
How are we supposed to return to normal when this life feels like anything but normal?
I remember last summer, even two summers ago, the phrases "return to normal" or "new normal" were hot button phrases that triggered a wide range of emotions in many people. Covid has caused and will probably cause more things to change that were normal before March 2020. But 18/19 months later, a lot feels more normal in our life and culture.
The phrase "time heals all wounds" is a platitude we have heard many times in this first month. We have even said it ourselves. But last night as we were lying in bed reading through the book of Job, this was one of Job's responses to his friends trying to console him with their "wisdom" and defend Job's thoughts about God not being good:
Job 13:12-13 "Your platitudes are as valuable as ashes. Your defense is as fragile as a clay pot. Be silent now and leave me alone. Let me speak, and I will face the consequences."
He basically tells his friends to shut up, stop telling me "God is good and He has a plan" or "Time heals all wounds" and let me go at it with God. Let me take on the Almighty, let me come at Him, question His goodness, questions His plan and yell at Him as Jim Carrey yelled in Bruce Almighty, "Smite me, O Mighty Smiter!"
Now, we have the perspective of Job's suffering that he didn't have in that moment. We also know how God blesses Job after his suffering. But right now we don't have either of those and honestly, I have no idea if or when we will see those. We may get glimpses of those along the way, but we're not owed any of it either. "His ways are higher" is a platitude I can do without right now, but at the same time, I am thankful that He is God, I am not and He gave up His Son Jesus on my behalf so that I could be restored to perfect relationship with Him now and forevermore.
So, what's our new normal? Or, how do we return to normal life like birthdays, holidays, grocery shopping, being at church, even just interacting with other people? How do we not break down in tears around everyone? How do we not grow resentful when we see a new baby post on social media or a family with a baby carrier in public? How do we not imagine what normal was supposed to be with Sophie with us?
Our new normal is daily battle with the King, the Creator, the Savior. Yet, this really should be a return to normal.
Our lives, our prayers should be filled with our heartfelt feelings and emotions to God. We should fight, question and wonder what God's plan is in the midst of this thing we call life. In pre-marital counseling, I always talk with the couple about managing conflict and communicating through it. Conflict will happen in the most sacred of relationships on this earth, the relationship that depicts Jesus' relationship with humanity. You have to expect conflict in marriage and you need to learn to fight fair, to communicate through it, so that your marriage is stronger on the other side.
If the relationship that depicts our relationship with God will have its share of battles, why shouldn't we expect the actual relationship itself to have its own fair share of battles?
I've always read the story of Job as a guide to help those who suffer, but now I am beginning to see it is a guide to true, authentic relationship with Jesus. His level of human suffering is unparalleled, but his level of intimacy with God is desirable. I don't want to go back to a normal life where prayer feels like a protective shield or rubbing the lamp of a magical genie. I want raw, honest, tear-filled conversation with my Creator and Savior. I want Him to overwhelm me with His presence when I am "going back to normal." I want His peace that surpasses all understanding, I want His mercies that are new every morning, I want His shelter is times of need...not as platitudes or nice Scripture to quote, I want it, crave it, can't imagine life without it.
As time goes on and as we return to normal life, I want the normal God created for me, and for all of us for that matter, in the first place. The time that heals all wounds won't heal the pain and grief I have for not having Sophie, but it'll heal the emptiness I feel and instead fill it with the true joy of the Lord. Doing normal activities and interacting again in normal life won't take away feelings of anger, bitterness, resentment, etc but I will sense and experience an even greater fulfillment of God's Spirit working powerfully within my normal.
New Normal? Return to Normal? You can call it whatever you would like...I just want what Job gets at the end as He says this to God:
Job 42:5 "I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes."
I want to see you through my anger, my tears, my joy, my peace, I just want you. I want that for my normal.