ADVENTURES IN GETTING TO KNOW PEOPLE

My mom is awesome. Around 8AM every day of the week, she sends me a quote. She’s been collecting them for as long as I can remember and ever since I stepped into the lead role at Immanuel Church, she’s been sending me a little encouragement each day from her notebook. It’s great. One in particular has been stuck in my mind for a while now and I thought I’d share it with you: “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” Joe Anis said that; an executive with GE who sounds an awful lot like a philosopher from centuries gone by.

Could a statement be more true? Why is it that the closer we seem to get to people the more flaws we find in them? I mean, who annoys you more than your family? And yet, when you look at everyone else, they seem to be all smiles, hugs and kisses. Everyone else’s office is normal. Everyone else’s neighbors are normal. Everyone else’s cousins are normal. Or so we think. With this misconception of everyone else in mind, we go about trying to fix the people we do life with. We try to adjust them so they can be normal too.

But what if there aren’t “normal” people? What if life isn’t about conforming to a standard; a usual, a typical, or the expected? Last time I checked, our society values being unique; being who we are and not apologizing for it. So why then are we so consumed with being normal? Normal is average. And who wants to be average?

I love these few sentences from the Bible: “You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this” (Psalm 139:13-14). “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

To think God made us on purpose with a purpose is nothing short of mind-blowing. David says that we’re “amazingly and miraculously made.” Those are gigantic words to describe you and me. Then Isaiah says that God made us like a potter forms clay into a bowl or vase. Think about that, a potter shapes that clay into precisely what he or she wants it to be, and then people pay good money to put them in their homes. Astounding, right? That’s you! You are the priceless piece uniquely made by the Potter. There’s nothing normal about that. No two are exactly the same.

So what if getting to know people well, blemishes and all, really is about seeing how they aren’t normal? And what if instead of trying to reshape them into a standard, you were appreciating the uniqueness of who they are? This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t all be striving to change into the likeness of Jesus; of course we are to do that. But I know an awful lot of Christians who are good, God-loving people, but don’t seem “normal” to some. Think of how different the 12 disciples were… Peter was loud and brash. John was quiet and reflective. Thomas was a skeptic. And yet they all followed Jesus.
We’re going to find differences with whoever we’re close to, I promise. But maybe, just maybe, we can come to appreciate that, instead of long for someone to be more like someone else. What would that do to our marriages? What would that do to our friendships? Our work relationships? The dynamics with our kids? I think it would do a lot. So Mr. Anis, you’re right about normal people being the ones you don’t know very well, but that’s what makes God all the more incredible and the adventure of getting to know people so great. Here’s to abnormal.

THE “SO FAR”

Lately my son has become obsessed with being in a band and becoming a world-famous rock star. He’s eight years old. But he is determined and convinced it will happen for him. So he’s begun writing songs–lots of songs. Everywhere I go in our house I find pieces of paper with lyrics scribbled all over them. And any time I go to use the family iPad, it’s too full of videos to do anything else. Here’s the thing: if you read those lyrics and watch those videos you’ll find that they’re pretty repetitive; seriously, it’s the same line over and over again. It’s not Grammy-winning material, so far…

And that’s the thing I can’t shake: it’s “so far.” Like I said, he’s an eight-year-old boy who has a wild and crazy dream, and if he has the wherewithal to write down even simple lyrics at this young age, what might he be capable of in 10-15 years? It would be easy for me to not think that way; it’s my default after all. Be realistic. Be serious. Think reasonably. Most people never make it as musicians; at least to a level that can support a family. As his father, isn’t it my job to help him grow up with his “head on straight?”

Can I be honest with you? I hate how that’s my default. I hate that I’m not better about dreaming with my kids and fanning sparks into flames. What if Justin Timberlake’s parents told him that a music career wasn’t a serious one? I bet they’re glad they didn’t when he pays for a nice vacation or meal. And I don’t want to think of this from the perspective that sees a possible retirement plan via my child’s riches, but the perspective that’s simply trying to love my son and grow him into the man God has created him to be.

Have you ever thought about that idea for very long? The fact that God created your children? We love to take the credit for that, but we overestimate ourselves. Psalm 139 reads, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (v13-14, NIV). My son is fearfully and wonderfully made. He is a wonderful work of God Himself. And let me tell you, God has knit together one created little boy. So I’ve begun looking at the dreams of my sons as an opportunity to shine light on the amazing creativity of God. Their creativity is His creativity. Me cheering them on and at times playing along is a chance for me to worship God and celebrate His creative work.

I don’t know if my son will ever stand in front of an auditorium and sing songs he’s written… but he might. Because right now, he’s just in the “so far.” Isn’t it interesting how much we are all in the “so far?” We’re all becoming. Whether we’re 7, 17, 37 or 77, we’re growing in our person. Some of us are simply growing in our knowledge and understanding. Others of us are doing our best to grow in our likeness to Jesus. We’re not very much like him, so far, but we’re working. So what if we did a better job of cutting each other a little slack? What if we understood that we’re all fearfully and wonderfully made? You may not have children of your own, but you have co-workers, or brothers and sisters, or neighbors that aren’t quite where you think they should be. Do you see their potential? Or their shortcomings? Do you see the lyrics they’re writing and think, “that’s not much to write home about” or do you see what they could become one day?

I’m thankful God spends more time thinking about the latter with me. And my goal is to spend more time thinking about the latter with my sons, my co-workers, the people I go to church with, and the people I sit in traffic with. Because in the end, we’re all still in the “so far.”