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Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Normal Life"

We were getting into bed the other night and chatting casually. Basically we were looking back over all that had happened that day. Most remarkable to us was that our day wasn't boring or normal. I think I said something like, "I thought life was to get more boring the older you get. Aren't we old enough yet to have a boring life?" My wife corrected me and said something like, "Well that only applies to people who have a normal life. You forget dear ... that we don't have a normal life." And I knew she was right. We don't. In fact, I don't know anyone who has a life that looks anything like ours. It's not that we're special. It's not that our life is considerably better ... or worse than anyone else's life. It's just that it is different. How does our life differ from the lives of just about everyone else that we know? It's actually hard to explain. But I suspect it has something to do with how we've constructed our family. My wife and I have 11 adopted children. Three of them were adopted here in the U.S. The other eight are in Uganda. To be sure, we'd like to have them here with us all the time, but so far God hasn't made that possible. So, we're maintaining two households, one here in the U.S. and one in Uganda. We've got two electric bills, two water bills, two payments, and of course two food bills. We've got school expenses --- sometimes it seems that they are about to overwhelm us! But it's not just our children and family situation that makes life different. We are in ministry. Many years ago we began to see our marriage as a ministry base. And as ministries go, this one covers a range of activities. My wife, for example, mentors an Iranian women who is trying to leave Islam and become a Christian. She only speaks Farsi and is struggling with English. I got involved in a ministry that trains indigenous pastors in rural Africa - and I write the curriculum myself ... based on what their needs are. As you might imagine, my wife's ministry focus seems to center around children. So she is constantly engaging in some way with children. It might be teaching a pre-school class at our church. It might be collecting and sorting clothes for foster children. It could be volunteering in the English-as-a-second-language lab and an underprivileged school. A few years ago my wife decided to return to work outside the home. She got a job in the library of a school on the east (poor) side of town. After working there a little while, she got laid off. But she felt so called to minister to these children that she continued to work there for another full year --- for free. Now I don't know if this is true, but it also seems that our lives are considerably more complicated than the lives of other people that we know. Maybe they are, or maybe that's just my perception. But we seem to have more than our fair share of problems and obstacles to contend with on a regular basis. More things break down. More things need sorting out. Sometimes there's more drama. (Sometimes there's a lot of drama!) None of this deters us, mind you. We plod through it, knowing that God is sufficient for all our needs and obstacles in life. We try not to worry about anything, and just usually turn to Him and say something like, "Well okay, God. How did you want me to respond to this?" The final area where I think our life is different and maybe not so normal is in the level of blessings we've received. Without a doubt, we are the most blessed people that we know. I don't say that smugly or anything. Truly we don't deserve to be the most blessed people that we know. But we've seen God intervene in our lives, time and time again, in some pretty miraculous ways. And we see how tragic life could be without God leading us through it. Let me expound on that just a bit. I remember reading Psalm 23 several years ago. At the time I was going through quite a bit of pain and heartache. This Psalm didn't comfort me at the time. But I identified with it. I was focused on my problems and my misery. The psalmist wrote, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ..." I thought to myself, "Oh, he's in my neighborhood. That's definitely where I've spent most of my life ... walking through the valley of the shadow of death!" Quite honestly, looking back, I see that I was a bit too focused on my problems at the time. Maybe I was having myself a pity party or something. But I continued to think about that psalm and God asked me to consider the rest of it as well. "... I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He restoreth my soul. ..."Oh my goodness, He totally does all that! In fact God gives me peace in the midst of circumstances that would suggest there is should be no peace at all. It wasn't long before I began to see Psalm 23 as a wonderful truth in my life. I also realized that my life is not "normal" and that I'm quite okay with that. I don't want life to be normal. I want it to keep being interesting and challenging and dynamic. Mind you, I would never want to face life without God. But since I have God, the entire meaning of life changes. Most of all, it goes from "normal" to extraordinary before you even realize it!

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