Is it time for you to let go of your “formal normal”? To let go of the life you had always planned on having but never quite got?
After hearing a sermon at my younger sister’s old church, I heard of a concept I had never thought of before. It was about letting go of the life you had intended, but never would have. When I heard her pastor teach that I had to let go of my “old normal” I got a sad inside. I mean, I had always been taught to have hope for the future, not to give up on what you wanted. But then I heard this thing about getting rid of my “old normal”. What I mean by your old normal is that there were things in your life that were such an important, integral part of your life that are no longer a part of your life and never will be again. Some of us have had some very memorable years in high school or college, some very romantic relationships, and some very normal upbringings. But things, times, and people change. We have to deal with reality and let go of our old normal when it’s gone.
For example, I had a great time in college. I met many people, had many fun experiences, learned a lot, and grew a lot. I made many mistakes, but do not focus on the past now because I can’t return to and alter anything. What has been done cannot be undone. I refuse to waste another minute of my present and future on thinking of things I should have done differently when I cannot change it. It only makes you sad. It only keeps you chained to your past. I believe that we should: “Use the past to illustrate and point, and then leave it behind.” Undergrad was a great time, but it’s OVER. I can’t reenter college as a naive, teenage freshman. I realize that it’s over. I had fun partying and doing the things that many undergrad college students do; it was a blast. Undergrad in college was a “good day”, but it is for sure a gone day.
We also have to let go of the life we have planned and hoped for AS SOON as we realize it will not occur. I know people who would have planned an entirely different turn-out of their life. Many girls wanted to be virgins until their wedding nights, but they had that choice and desire taken away from them at ages as early as 2 years old because they were raped by pedophiles. Many boys wanted to have a great father-son relationship, but their dads didn’t want to be fathers and/or didn’t want to be with their mothers, so they left them both. These boys and girls are left to grieve that reality and move on from the life they had so hoped and planned for. It’s so sad, but it must be done. You must move on from the formal normal.
Some adults had such great plans for their children. They might have wanted for them to be a cheerleader captain or a star quarterback; but maybe the girl ran away from home or the son died of an overdose. During the days of the old normal, things were looking hopeful; but the new normal of the parents is that they no longer have that child or the hopes for the child. They have to mourn the loss of that child and the loss of those dreams for that child. Sure runaways can return, but a deceased child can never come back. Parents who lose a child never get over it – whether it’s loss by abortion, still-birth, miscarriage, or death as an older child. But the truth is that these parents do have to accept it. Maybe someone has a disease with no cure or has lost a limb. Life will never be the same for these people in most cases. For example, if a model was burned in a fire, she will not be able to model in the same capacity anymore. If a football player lost an arm, he will not be able to play football in the same way. It’s sad, but they will never again live their old normal.
I have heard of cases where God has done what is known as creative miracles which means that people have regrown limbs, have had burn scars totally disappear, and have had incurable diseases healed; but for the most part, most people who go through these types of trauma will not have such miracles occur. They will just have to adapt to the new normal.
Philippians 4:11-12 – “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
The pastor who brought up this topic is the pastor of Corryton Church near Knoxville, Tennessee. At the end of the service, he asked people to come to the altar and write on an index card their old normal and the disappointments in life that they have to accept and deal with. Then he had us to get a nail and a hammer and literally nail the index card to the wooden cross that was lying on the altar. When I finished the exercise and returned to my seat, I cried. I tried to hold it in because this was a church where emotion was not really shown. But I couldn’t help it. There were some things I really, really, really wanted to experience in life that I knew I would likely never get to experience because of foolish choices I made; and this made me very sad. I guess I thought that if I dwelled and reminisced on certain things from my past then it might mean that there was a slight possibility that I could get that old normal back. I thought that if I kept hope alive about my ex-boyfriend or ”the one who got away”, then there could still be a chance. I thought that if I kept revisiting the places I used to go, I could keep hope alive. I thought that if I hung out with the people I used to have the old normal with, then I would get a small experience of the old normal again. But after nailing my formal normal to the cross, I knew it was over. I was left to grieve the losses.
The pastor said that when we spend our time looking at and grasping for the things we lost and used to have, we neglect and aren’t grateful for what we do have. This reminds me of the parents who lose one child and because of the excessive focus on the lost child, they totally neglect showing attention to the children who remain. This is not to say that you should act as if the deceased child never existed; you can still reflect on memories. But you should not neglect the living children to focus solely or chiefly on the deceased child. If you’re married and are thinking of an ex all of the time, you’re being unfair to the Mr. or Mrs. because of someone you’ll probably never get. Sure, adultery is an option for some, but things won’t ever be the same – especially if the other ex is married or dating someone else and if there are children involved from the new relationship. Just let it go. You can’t always get what you want in life. For example, being a millionaire could be cool, but chances are I won’t be one. So I’m not going to forget and show disdain for the thousands just to focus on the millions and billions that are out of my grasp. I’m going to enjoy and make do with the hundreds while leaving millions as an option or goal. But I will definitely appreciate what I have NOW.
Here are some people who will likely have problems letting go of the life they planned and their old normal:
◦Parents who have lost a child or good experiences with a child because of miscarriage, homicide, suicide, abortion (regardless of the reason), accident, drugs, runaway, mental illness, mental retardation, handicaps, etc.
◦People who have lost a significant other or good experiences with a significant other because of a break-up, separation, divorce, infidelity, incarceration, death, etc.
◦People who have been victimized through child abuse, sexual assault, and other traumatizing events
◦People who have been incarcerated for a long time and are therefore missing out on a life of freedom and security
◦People who have made choices that they wish they hadn’t made that might likely affect them for life (ex. messing up your reputation through promiscuity, getting an incurable STD, having an unwanted child, having an abortion, cheating on a spouse or loved one, doing crimes against the innocent, etc.)
We all have made bad choices, and we all have had bad choices committed against us against our will. But one thing is for sure – life goes on. The main reason I cried after nailing my old normal and old dreams to that cross was because I had to have a small grieving or mourning moment. I had never grieved what I had lost because I always thought that someday I could get it back. I had to accept in my heart and head that I will NEVER again get to experience the things I wrote on that index card. I won’t share here what I put on there, but they were things that I really wanted and wished had (not) happened in my life. But I gave it to Jesus because He can do more with my broken heart than I can. I can’t do anything about those things on that card. All I can say is that while it was or could have been a good day, it is definitely and irrevocably a gone day. But there are better days ahead. And if there won’t be very many more better days on this here earth, they’ll absolutely and definitely be good days EVERY DAY in the afterlife for me. I’m not suggesting that we never aspire to greater things. I will always strive for better and greater things. I will always pray for healing for myself and others. I will always try to be successful in life. But if God does not will for me to have certain things or experiences, I’m over it already.
Philippians 3:13 – “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead…”