When the Weird Becomes Normal

When weirdness becomes common, it ceases to be weird. What was once looked upon as strange or bizarre can become so frequent or commonplace it no longer stands out or draws attention. It loses it oddity, its uniqueness, its sense of eccentricity. It becomes normal. This process of transforming from weird to normal is a gradual one, often occurring without notice or thought, and our general assumption is that becoming normal, as typically defined, is a good thing. And quietly, these strands of so-called normalcy wrap themselves around our deepest desires and insecurities, pulling us, shaping us into someone different than we truly are.

Lent is a time of fasting, self-denial, and reflection that calls us to step away, in some form, from the normalcy of this world. As we disconnect from the “normal” things of this life and world, we start to become aware of all the ways be have become shaped, and even enslaved, by their grip. We see the normalcy of this world is anything but, and what has become common and ordinary is actually dysfunction. Consumerism, materialism, greed, and selfishness appear to rule. Hatred, anger, and fear drive us to accuse and dehumanize others, while caustic and demeaning rhetoric becomes the common language of the culture. We swim in these waters every day, and even as the followers of Jesus, we can adapt to the temperature of the water in ways we do not realize.

We need seasons of fasting and self-denial. It’s when we step out of the water we have been mindlessly swimming in that we realize how different it is from the land that is our home. We remember that we are part of a kingdom that is different than those of this earth, with values that contradict and overturn the accepted normalcy. Our kingdom, and the people of our kingdom, reflect crazy things like love, joy, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness. We are strange enough serve anyone in need, to bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute us. It looks strange or odd to those around us, but only because the dysfunction and brokenness of the world has become normal to them.

In the Orthodox tradition, there is a recognized category of Spirit-bearer in the church known as the “fool for Christ.” The “fool” is one who embodies the values of God’s kingdom to such a degree, that lives so completely devoted to the cause and character of Christ, that the world questions their sanity. The season Lent should call each of us to such foolishness. As we separate, in some small way, from worldly matters and concerns, we remember that we are to live as reflections of a different world. We are signposts for a kingdom that is coming, one that is being fulfilled among us. Lent calls us to embrace our oddness once again, the weirdness the world doesn’t understand. As we do, we come to realize that this oddness is not really odd at all – it is the normalcy God always intended for us.

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