I’ve often heard the phrase, ‘when life gets back to normal’. I’ve said it myself over the years. After a move, or some major change, I always had my eye on the time when everything would settle down and we could get back to normal. The thing is, nothing ever went back to ‘normal’. Instead we settled into a new normal, a new normal requiring a new direction and new goals.
Like most people, I was taught to set goals; short term goals and long term goals for every aspect of life including education, financial, and relationships. Once I had a goal, I created a plans to achieve it. But the plan had to be fluid to accommodate the unexpected like an accident or illness, things that could even change the goals. But no matter the circumstances, there was always a goal, a destination to aim for.
I was taught to stay focused, to keep ‘my head in the game’, ‘my eye on the ball’ and ‘nose to the grindstone’. In the world’s eyes, my value as a member of society was apparently determined by my income and, since money could help me achieve many goals, the ultimate goal was, and is, to make money.
The problem is, pursuing money is frequently depressive, its realization is often illusive, and its success is never certain. Despite all my plans and goals, I can only be certain about one thing in this life; I’m gonna die.
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor 2:2
Paul (aka Saul) spent his life studying the Jewish scriptures. He probably knew them inside out and backwards but, despite his great learning, was unable to see their truth. Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets and yet, Paul with his intimate knowledge of the scriptures, was not able to recognize the one of whom the scriptures spoke.
Paul had to have a close encounter of the Christ kind on the road to Damascus before his eyes were opened, both physically and spiritually. After a few years off to re-evaluate his understanding of everything he had been taught, his paradigm shifted and nothing was ‘normal’ again.
Only in the light of the passion of Jesus Christ was the truth of the scriptures revealed to Paul. He realized everything, all the stories and the law and the prophets spoke of of Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Paul’s life turned upside-down. The scales fell from his eyes, the veil was lifted and the scriptures were opened. Paul had eyes to see and ears to hear and he saw all of life by the light of the crucified Christ. Everything Paul wrote to the early Christians, and to us, contains this theme.
In the light of this revelation, like Paul, my world is also turned upside-down. The foolish weakness of a man dying on a cross conquers death and reveals the wisdom of the ages. The more I admit my inadequacies, the more I can accomplish because God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. My life leads to death and my death leads to life.
My goal is no longer to be successful by worldly or material standards. (In fact, I would suggest there are many popular elements of worldly success which are the very antithesis of Godly success.) My goal now is to follow the path of Christ, the path of sacrificial love, to have the scales fall from my eyes, and to see the Kingdom of Heaven all around me.
To this end, I abandon the frenetic pursuit of worldly financial success and stop asking God to bless my ‘wise’ decisions. I want to always see His way straight before me and to view all of life in the light of the Crucified Christ.
This is my new normal, ‘letting go and letting God.’ I try to live as though all that comes to me throughout the day is part of God’s plan for me to live in the Kingdom of Heaven. I may never achieve the goal of worldly success, but then, in the veiled eyes of the world, neither did Christ.
Anastasia Bartlett is a member of St. Aidan’s Orthodox Church in Cranbrook BC. The priest at St Aidan’s, Father Andrew, can be reached at 250-420-1582