“Lord I wish I had a normal life…”
That has been my prayer on more than one occasion at different points in my life.
I am sure I am not alone in my prayer…a lot of people have made similar prayers, maybe not in those exact words, but still in the same line of thinking.
“Lord, I would like to be able to have a job, like normal people do”
“God, I would like to be married, like most people my age”
“Lord, I wish I was more like everyone else…”
In short, when we pray for normalcy we do not necessarily explicitly ask God for a normal life, but we ask God for to bring about in our lives the situations that we consider “normal” for a given circumstance/outcome in our life.
Big Bang Wisdom: A Jungian Crisis & Weltschmerz
My sister recently introduced me to a new TV show…the Big Bang theory. One of the episodes had a really interesting scenario in which one of the main characters, the over-analytical theoretical physicist named Sheldon, tries to comfort his friend Leonard, who is sad due to the distant relationship he maintains with his mother. Sheldon walks into Leonard’s room to talk to him, and the conversation unfolds like this;
Leonard: …Why are you here?
Sheldon: To comfort you, of course… Leonard, what you’re experiencing is a classic Jungian crisis in which the aging individual mourns the loss of the never-to-be realized ideal family unit.
Leonard: Thank you, that’s very comforting.
Sheldon: That’s not the comforting part.
Leonard: It’s not?
Sheldon: No, no. The comforting part is that the Germans have a term for what you’re feeling. Weltschmerz. It means the depression that arises from comparing the world as it is to a hypothetical, idealized world.
Leonard: You’re right, I do feel better.
Sheldon: Well, the Germans have always been a comforting people.
This episode made me laugh-out-loud, especially in this part because my GERMAN HUSBAND was sitting next to me…however, when I thought about this idealized vs. reality Weltschmerz notion, I had to wonder if my prayer for a normal life, was an expression of a Jungian crisis of some sort…was my prayer for ‘a normal life’ a prayer for an idealized form of reality?
What is Normal? From “Norm” to “Normal” to “Ideal”
The term “normal” is related to the word “norm”… a term utilized in sociology to describe a pattern of behavior that has been adopted by a group, and is now akin to a law -governing social interactions within that group. In short, a norm is what everybody does, or at least, what everybody is expected to do.
The word normal thus refers to something that is manifested and expected by most people in a group…
The term “normal” can be used to qualify a broader range of phenomena, from behaviors (i.e. act normal), to personality traits (he’s pretty normal), events (it was a normal day)…in short, we use the word ‘normal’ when things fall within a range of expected outcomes.
However, it is in those instances “when things fall within a range of expected outcomes” where that which is considered ‘normal’ becomes idealized; because that which is expected is normal and is ideal…anything falling outside of that range can be grounds for a Jungian crisis, expressed in many ways; in my case it was a prayer for ‘a normal life’.
As I was praying for a normal life, God answered my prayer in an unexpected way; I had to think of an account from the life of King David.
David’s transition from shepherd to King
As a young boy, David was a shepherd in his father’s household who became the hero in Israel for defeating Goliath, saving the whole nation from destruction, and later become the king of Israel.
It sounds like pretty normal progression; a shepherd who defends sheep from predators, a warrior who defends Israel from his enemies, a rising hero who becomes the king.
Most of us have read/heard David’s story so many times, that the particularities of David’s rise to power elude us… the reality is, that the circumstances that led David to the throne are far from normal.
Unlike most kings, who are the first male child born into a royal family, David was not born into a royal family, he was not even the first born in his family…he was the youngest.
Once David was anointed, he did not get to rule over Israel, he did not get to sit on the throne, he went to serve under Saul, who constantly attacked him and sought to take his life.
David’s transition to kingship is the least normal in the history of Israel…
One particular account, encapsulates the far-from-normal circumstances that characterized David’s life;
David Destroys the Amalekites
(1st Samuel 30 verses 1-7)
1. Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. 2 They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.
3 When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, 4 they wept until they could weep no more.5 David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured.
6 David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him.
But David found strength in the Lord his God.
7 Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. 8 Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”
And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”
Background of the story…
This story plays out right after David has fled Israel with a group of loyal followers to evade Saul, who is trying to kill him.
He ends up among the philistines and becomes their ally in battle (talk about less than normal situations)
…however while he was in battle, some philistine leaders became afraid that David would turn against them in the middle of battle, and again, he is forced out.
David’s rise to the throne is most definitely not a normal progression of events;
1. Saul opposes his claim to the throne of Israel, he ends up joining his enemies the philistines,
2. Among the Philistines, David is treated with suspicion and ousted due to doubts regarding his allegiance in the battlefield.
3. And to make matters worse, when he goes back to his camp, he finds that everything has been plundered and taken away from him and his friends. The bible says that he wept until he could no longer weep.
Maybe at that point he prayed “God why can’t my way to Kingship be more normal, why so much suffering, why so much pain?”
I am sure many of us that can identify with David’s feelings at this point…we have come to a low point in our lives, and just when we think things couldn’t get any worse…they do…things are so bad, we long for normal.
In light of the loss of everything, David’s men became embittered…however the bible says David found strength in the LORD. Not only did he find strength, but also guidance and the ability to go back and recover everything he had lost…
Normal vs. Divine
David’s initiative in light of the circumstances, was to ask for divine guidance in his life. The Lord told David he could go and chase after the Amalekites, and he found them and recovered everything…
When things were all kinds of not normal…and much less than ideal, David looked for the divine…and everything fell into place.
This made me think about a bible verse in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 that says;
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.“
When we find ourselves far from the normal range of expected outcomes in our lives, the tendency is to go looking for normalcy…but what we need to do, is to look for God’s divine guidance…which means that even when things don’t fall within a range of expected outcomes, they will fall in the right place.