It’s safe to say that, besides January and February of 2020 (of which I can’t really recollect), not much this year has been normal. And now things that are normal would have been considered quite strange at the beginning of the year. Disappointments abound when we hold too tightly to expectations…to what we perceive as normal.
I woke up in the night and had a thought, like I was in a conversation with the Lord immediately upon opening my eyes, and as clear as day I thought these words: I need to give Jesus any and all expectations for normal as a gift this Christmas.
Strange to have those thoughts in the middle of the night and maybe I should have gotten up and finished the conversation, but I slept some more and woke up with those thoughts fresh on my mind. With coffee in hand and Bible on my lap, I sat with the Lord and with those thoughts. I recalled many times in my life where I had given God my expectations, my disappointments, my empty hands, and acknowledged that I don’t have the best plans. I don’t know what is best for me. And yet, here I was this morning with this same “gift” to give God: the surrender of my wishes and hopes. The reality is that I don’t think the way He thinks, so I need to surrender anew all of my wishes and hopes, especially this one to “just get back to normal.” And honestly, I have had that thought many, many times this year!!!
We did school at home for ten years, which is not necessarily normal, but became our normal. Then, we started “normal” school in 2019—just in time for the wheels of that “normal” school experience to become not normal. And this fall has proven to be not normal, though the school, the teachers, and the students have tried. It’s just not normal—not what we had gotten used to at the beginning of the 2019 school year.
This Christmas season has not been normal. Our home is usually open multiple times for lots of people and food is cooked and served and crafts and cookies are made and shared. And we tried some of those things on a smaller scale and even those best laid plans resulted in not normal. It’s annoying, if I’m being honest. I’m so tired of the masks and not talking to people as I go about my day out and about. I’m annoyed by social distancing pressures and how we don’t even make eye contact much anymore. I’m irritated that it is now rude to hug or handshake. I’m overwhelmed at the many times of having to explain to my kids why we can’t just invite a group of friends over to hang out. It’s not normal.
But I did sense God asking me this morning to again surrender. Surrender my desire for my normal. Surrender my expectations. Surrender my annoyances. Surrender my sadness over what I feel was lost this year. Surrender, open-handed, and trust Him to be the only sure thing, the only unchangeable One, the only consistent One. I sensed a nudge to Hope in Him alone. He has, after all, never failed me.
God doesn’t commit Himself to work in normal or expected ways. And I am reminded this Christmas as we focus on Jesus’ birth that this idea was not normal! The manger that sits in my front yard with a light shining on it and the John 3:16 sign tells of the “not normal” way God showed His love for all people. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
My hope for today, for tomorrow, for 2021 and beyond is not that things would get back to normal, but that I would hope in God more with each passing day. I pray that it would be normal for me to look to Him for all I need, that it would be normal for me to respond to disappointments with trust, even normal to respond to broken people with love, that it would be normal for me to hold my plans loosely as I entrust myself to my faithful, good God.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You.