Finding a new normal

Published 10:29 am Saturday, January 10, 2015

By Andrew Book

Our third child, Gregory, was born on Dec. 19, 2014. He just passed three weeks old and we are slowly emerging from the fog that is childbirth and the sleepless days and nights that followed. Gregory is a perfect, sweet baby, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have him with us. But as most parents can tell you the birth of a child changes things permanently. Sure, he will be sleeping through the night before too long and will quickly move through those early developmental stages that mark the first year of a baby’s life. But no matter how quickly some of those things happen, there is no going back to the life we had before Gregory’s birth. We will have to emerge from the fog with a new normal, new routines and new ways of thriving.

The birth of a new baby is not the only life-changing event that we face. Some of the life-changing events are joy-filled, exciting, and anticipated events such as the birth of a child, a marriage or a new job or home. Other times these life-changing events can be crushing and life-draining events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, losing a job, home or close friend. Regardless of whether the event is one we have sought out or whether it is something that has happened to us, we all find ourselves from time to time in our lives in a place where what was “normal” no longer exists. These times are times of disorientation, confusion and questions as we try to figure out which way is up and how we are going to live our lives. The old normal is gone, and we need to find a new normal.

The book of Psalms in the Bible is a book of poetry reflecting the lives, faith, and experiences of the people who wrote those poems and songs. There is something about poetry that captures that challenge of disorientation and the pursuit of re-orientation well, and the psalms are filled with expressions of this journey through disorientation. Listen to these words from Psalm 30 (verses 6-8 and 10-11):

6 When I was comfortable, I said, ‘I will never stumble.’

7 Because it pleased you, Lord, you made me a strong mountain.

But then you hid your presence. I was terrified. 8 I cried out to you, Lord. I begged my Lord for mercy:

10 Lord, listen and have mercy on me! Lord, be my helper!” 11 You changed my mourning into dancing.

You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up in joy.”

We don’t know the details of the life events that changed this psalmist’s life, but they were clearly not the positive kind. What is also clear is that in the midst of the distress, this person called out to God and, with God’s help, they were able to discover a new normal, find God in the midst of change, and move forward with a life that had been forever marked by disorientation. I love how the Psalms do not pretend that “everything is OK” in the midst of these disorienting times. Too often we simply try to get on with life as normal when the reality is that the old normal is gone and finding a new normal is hard— we need to be honest about that!

For me, this shows up in a lot of different ways. One good example is the practice of morning devotions that are so very helpful for many people in their life of faith. For much of the last year, I had a great devotional time from about 5:30-7 a.m. This was a truly life-giving time for me in reading scripture, prayer, journaling, and more, but our new normal does not allow this kind of set schedule.

Would it scandalize you to know that as I get re-oriented, I do not have a regular devotional time right now? That doesn’t sound “holy,” but it is real life for me. I hope and plan to get back to a regular schedule soon, but I am not there right now (and I am not going to pretend I am). I do trust that God will be present and helping as I figure out what a new normal looks like.

Courtland United Methodist Church is filled with people in different places of disorientation and re-orientation. We work hard to be a community that is honest about the realities of life and strive to help one another find the new normal that we need to thrive.

Regardless of whether you find yourself in a position of orientation or disorientation or re-orientation, I hope and pray that you have a community of people to journey with you as you find your “normal” way of living. May it be a life filled with faith, hope and love!


ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or