Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

Normal Is Not Working

Normal Is Not Working

We lived in South Florida when our kids were young, which meant a three-hour road trip once a year to Disney World. The kids were little - 3 and 6 the first time they went - Disney seemed huge. And it is. It also appeared perfect. Or so we believed until a friend began working there. And like everything else, the outward appearance may be amazing, but the inward workings - not so much - a truth that reminds me of King David.

David was the most famous Hebrew King and the man who wrote most of the book of Psalms. The life of David offers a clear contrast between Kingdom values and cultural values.

Our culture teaches us to value certain things called norms, which are expected in our culture. But the Kingdom of God leads us to value other things. So, we are called to a life of contrast. What we value as Christ-followers is often in contrast with what culture values. Every Christ-follower is called to live a contrast life because normal isn't working. But unfortunately, throughout our culture, there are various things considered normal.

  • It's normal to live superficial lives where we show our best selves on social media.
  • It's normal to allow fear in the news, politics, and culture wars to consume us.
  • It's normal to pick a side and rage against the other.
  • It's normal to withhold forgiveness.
  • It's normal to be focused only on today instead of the future.

We can't keep doing "normal" and expect life-changing results.

Normal is coasting through life. Normal is the path of least resistance. Normal is looking out for yourself and your interests. Normal is letting the culture teach our kids right from wrong. Normal is pursuing whatever earthly pleasure is conveniently in front of us.

Normal isn't working anymore. If we want a meaningful life and leave a legacy that benefits others, we need to live a life contrary to what is normal. Jesus calls us to be different - to live a life of contrast.

Let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:16

David was the most outstanding character in the Old Testament part of God's story. He was a man after God's own heart who chose to live a life of contrast to what was expected – which is the reason we know his story today.

My heart, not my appearance, determines the course of my life. So, the backdrop of David's life is essential. Israel left Egypt and established itself as a nation in the promised land. God intended to guide them through people he called judges. Israel wanted a king like the other nations around them. God warned them that a king is generally concerned with kingship and burdens his people. But their desire to be normal like the other nations around them drove them to demand a king. The first king started well, but he ultimately did evil things in the eyes of God. So, God sent one of his prophets, Samuel, to reveal who the next King of Israel would be. Now the Lord said to Samuel, "You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as King of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my King." 1 Samuel 16:1

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, "Surely this is the Lord's anointed!" But the Lord said to Samuel, "Don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:6-7 In the same way, all seven of Jesse's sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen any of these." Then Samuel asked, "Are these all the sons you have?" "There is still the youngest," Jesse replied. "But he's out in the fields watching the sheep and goats." "Send for him at once," Samuel said. "We will not sit down to eat until he arrives." 1 Samuel 16:10-11

So, Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, "This is the one; anoint him." So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. 1 Samuel 16:12-13

Culture teaches us to look only at outward appearance. So how do we learn to look at the heart instead?

1. Prioritize the Heart

For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

The condition of my heart is the best definition of who I am, and who I am in my heart shows up in my speech and actions. What I think, say, and do reveal my heart's condition. My mother used to explain it this way, "What's down in the well comes up in the bucket."

But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart Matthew 15:18

Scripture has so much to say about having a clean heart. But, first, let's do a little priority check. How long does it take to get ready each day? How much time do you spend getting your heart ready for the day? Prioritize the heart. Every evening, my heart time is when I spend 30-45 minutes with God - praying, listening, thinking, and seeking.

2. Guard Your Heart

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23

Have you ever heard the phrase GIGO – garbage in, garbage out? We guard our minds by policing our thoughts. Martin Luther King Jr. often said, "You cannot keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair."

You cannot keep a thought from flashing through your mind, but you can keep from building a plan of action around it. You cannot keep a feeling from flooding into your heart, but you can keep it from taking over your life.

A funny story – sort of. We have always had pets, especially hamsters, gerbils, sugar gliders (think of a rodent that can glide), mice, snakes, and iguanas. There was even a six-foot alligator in our home once - for about 20 minutes. Our 16-year-old son thought it would be funny to put it on my bed. He quickly learned it was NOT funny!

We now have two cats who get hyper when it gets cold. One snowy day a week ago, the cats went crazy - chasing each other through the house, knocking things over, making a mess, and driving us nuts. When Dan heard a crash in the hallway, he yelled at the cat that he thought had made yet another mess. "What have you done now, you dumb animal?" Only he used the Old Testament King James word for a dumb donkey. "What are you doing, you dumb _ _ _?" Three letters. When Dan stepped into the hallway to see what the cat had done, he found me – cleaning up the mess caused when I dropped my drink. He went white as he realized what he had just called his wife. Not once in our marriage of 46 years has Dan ever called me a name in anger.

I looked up at him in shock and responded, "What did you just say to me?" Dan began to apologize – profusely – and explained that he thought I was the cat. I had an immediate choice to make. I could be offended and hurt, or I could guard my heart and forgive him. It was a simple choice for me. I forgave him, and we had a good laugh.

Culture says we should keep score, record our hurts, become a victim. Jesus tells us to keep no record of wrongs, forgive our hurts, and be an overcomer. David guarded his heart. We must do the same.

3. Check Your Heart

I love reading the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs from the Old Testament. There are 150 psalms and 31 proverbs. In these 181 chapters, the heart is mentioned 160 times. The Hebrews paid attention to the heart and believed in heart checks.

People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their hearts. Proverbs 21:2

I am well-versed in heart conditions. My husband recently had his 59th heart procedure. Despite his size, Dan's heart issues are not plumbing-related. His cholesterol is perfect, and he has no blockages. Instead, Dan's heart problems are electrical. He has a congenital disability that causes his heart to be out of rhythm electrically. The technical term is a deviated superior vena cava. Dan's heart naturally gets out of rhythm, which can cause devastating results. In the last 15 years, Dan has had one minor stroke, two cardiac arrests, five major heart surgeries, and 54 cardioversions. So, he checks his heart several times a day. He has an app on his phone that gives him a very basic EKG. Checking his heart is part of his daily routine. You and I have a spiritual, emotional heart that has issues. It tends to get out of rhythm with God. And the further out of rhythm we get, the more irrational emotions rule our lives.

Let's do a quick heart check.

  • What do my words reveal about my heart?
  • What do my actions reveal about my heart?
  • What am I doing to create a healthy heart?
  • What am I putting into my heart to make it healthy?

But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, 'I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.' Acts 13:22

That is who I want to be and how I want to be known – a woman after God's own heart, a daughter of the King who will do everything God wants me to do. How about you? My daily prayer is Psalm 19:14. May the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. So may it be yours as well.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/marchmeena29

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.