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If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.Maya Angelou
“I just want to be normal.”
It’s a statement that I never thought I would say. Those who know me well might even question if I really am this article’s true author. But the truth is there are vast parts of me that deeply desire to be normal.
These are the ways I can define being “normal”:
- I want to feel normal and hate when I feel I have a weakness, like being prone to fatigue and anxiety.
- I want to be accepted and respected, which in other words means I desire to conform to a standard of what is acceptable, which is the very definition of “normal.”
- I want to be myself, but not too loud, too abrasive, too annoying, too weird, too emotional, or too unreliable.
While all of these are true, growing up I never thought of myself as someone who cared to be normal. Even as I write this, I find the sentiment difficult to admit, hence why I am bringing it up again. However, over the years I have been able to discover and admit a more difficult truth that helps me to arrive at this conclusion:
I am deeply insecure.
Most of my life I handled this insecurity by avoiding it. I chose to be apathetic toward the thoughts and opinions of others. I chose to be indifferent to the insecurities, fears, and disappointments I felt in relationships. I grew more unfeeling and more dedicated to simply doing whatever I set out for myself to do or accomplish. My ambition then masked my desire to be “normal.”
Maybe you are like me, believing you are apathetic or indifferent to the opinions of others and not really caring about what people think. The truth is, while we may be living our lives hardened to our emotions and wants – ignoring them or shutting them down – we actually deeply care and desire to be loved and accepted. We desire to be normal.
In fact, I have found for myself that when I seem most apathetic, I actually care the most. This issue is that in these moments I am just unsure of how to process the emotions and desires that I have because of my fears of weakness, pain, and rejection.
But as we will see throughout this article, God offers us a different path, and with it, he offers us a solution to our apathy. This path will show us how to not be normal so we can be free to live the inspiring life he has destined us to live.
The life we are destined for
“And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…’”Acts 17:6 ESV
When we become those who walk with God, simultaneously living the life he has destined for us, we become people who courageously impact and change the world. We become people who turn the world upside down.
This is evident in Scripture. Jesus himself was a disrupter. He was not afraid to be different.
- Jesus would stop and speak to a Samaritan woman when the culture would say he should not speak to that woman or any Samaritan (John 4).
- Jesus would heal someone on the Sabbath when the culture at the time discouraged him from doing such work (Mark 3).
- Jesus would enter someone’s house and, in a culture that values being a good host, tell the woman who is hard at work as a host that she is prioritizing the wrong things by focusing on her duties rather than on Jesus’s teaching (Luke 10:41).
In these ways, and many more, Jesus shows us something we intuitively know: to change the world we must be different. We cannot be held captive by the desire to be what the world considers “normal.” This is what God destined for all of us.
Yet too often in my life I am unable to do what is required to reach this freedom. Though I desire to be someone who has a profound impact, I am held back by the condition of my heart: one full of apathy.
When I am apathetic I don’t care enough to try or do what it takes to live an impactful life. I don’t care enough to take risks. I don’t want the pain or the discomfort of change, disappointment, or rejection.
In all of this, my pursuit for love and acceptance, my desire to be normal, and the apathy I live with all converge. And only with God am I able to escape this. For me to go from emotionally dead and apathetic to inspired, I have to connect more to the source of inspiration and life: God.
Below are the three things that happen when we connect with God to overcome our apathy and pursue our destiny:
See it: identifying our desires
“for their [moral] understanding is darkened and their reasoning is clouded; [they are] alienated and self-banished from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the [willful] ignorance and spiritual blindness that is [deep-seated] within them, because of the hardness and insensitivity of their heart.
And they, [the ungodly in their spiritual apathy], having become callous and unfeeling, have given themselves over [as prey] to unbridled sensuality, eagerly craving the practice of every kind of impurity [that their desires may demand].”Ephesians 4:18-19 AMP
Apathy, in the form of ignorance, spiritual blindness, hardness of heart, insensitivity, callousness, and being unfeeling is a willful decision. It is something we choose and therefore stems from desires within our hearts.
As I reflected on this for myself, I noticed the desires at the core of my apathy:
- I desire to not think or feel about anything.
- I desire to hold onto my view or idea about what I am going through or have gone through.
- I desire to live in denial or delusion.
- I desire to be emotionally detached, isolated, or deceitful.
For me, and for anyone who struggles with apathy and having a hard heart, the desire to harden and be apathetic leads to other desires, or as is written above “unbridled sensuality” and “every kind of impurity that their desires may demand.” Again, this applies to anyone who chooses to be apathetic in any area that God wishes to reach them.
When I choose apathy in any area of my heart and life, I begin to see the world in an unspiritual way – one more influenced by sensuality rather than spirituality. Everything I do, whether reading an article or watching T.V., and everywhere I go, whether on a walk down the street or a drive to the store, can be filled with sensuality and desire.
I begin to judge everyone I see based upon their attractiveness, fashion, social status, and more. I crave attention and for others to notice me, sometimes fantasizing about what they may be thinking of me.
The world surrounding me all of a sudden begins to revolve around me, my desires, and what I can get out of the experience. However, I still end up feeling empty, and oftentimes ashamed, guilty, alone, and more anxious. This is because, even in these times, what I truly desire is not the sensuality, but simply to be loved.
What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.Proverbs 19:22 NIV
At the core of each one of us is the desire to be loved. Love is what will bring about fulfillment in our lives. Specifically, God’s love is what is meant to fulfill us as only he can provide a love that is unfailing. We need to see our desire for this love and choose to believe in and connect to God as the source.
One thing that often helps me to do this is when I decide to act in a moment of courageous honesty. In these times I choose to share honestly with God and others about my weaknesses, sins, shame, insecurities, and more.
The more I am honest, the more I am able to be seen as who I really am, and the more I myself am aware of who I really am. When I realize in these moments that I am still accepted by God and people he has put in my life, despite my shame and weaknesses, I become more confident in God’s love.
- What desires motivate your apathy?
- What have you not been honest about that is keeping you from experiencing God’s love?
- What are other ways you can see God’s love for you?
- Choose three people you believe God has placed in your life that you can be completely honest with, and decide to set up consistent times to talk and let down.
Admit: owning our heart’s impact
“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits… This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments… When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny…
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.”Psalm 73:3,7,12-14,16-17,21-22 NIV
This scripture paints a detailed picture of what happens when we have a hardened, apathetic heart:
- We treat people immorally and unfairly (the meaning of iniquity).
- Our minds pursue shameful thoughts, imaginations, and fantasies without constraint.
- We live in regret.
- We live to avoid pain and affliction.
- We become senseless and ignorant.
- We act like brute beasts toward those who love us, specifically God.
In my experience, I don’t want to admit to myself, others, and God that my apathetic heart condition has had an impact. This kind of admission is more than recognizing the logical fact, but rather is taking an interest in hearing and considering the feelings of others I have impacted.
I remember when I first talked to my family members about how my apathetic and hard heart impacted them. In doing this, I realized that apathy was the reason I could not have any empathy toward my parents even when I saw them going through a hard time. My apathy brought great distance and pain.
Though there were lots of tears, pain, and sadness, there also came immense closeness and a sobering understanding of who I really am. Followed by grace, mercy and forgiveness. It was the first and only time (up to that point) I had ever felt so close to my family, something I desperately wanted.
Since then, here are a few ways I have learned to to be able to admit the impact of my apathy:
- By asking those around me to be gut-level honest about the impact of my heart and sin, and caring to feel about them – more than about myself and how what they are saying affects me (2 Samuel 12).
- By praying through how I might feel if I was someone else and I was being treated as I treat others (Matthew 7:12).
- By reading the Scriptures to see what God says about the impact of my heart and sin (2 Corinthians 7:8-9).
Do not harden your hearts, as [happened] in the rebellion [of Israel] and their provocation and embitterment [of Me] in the day of testing in the wilderness, Where your fathers tried [My patience] and tested [My forbearance] and found I stood their test, and they saw My works for forty years.
And so I was provoked (displeased and sorely grieved) with that generation, and said, They always err and are led astray in their hearts, and they have not perceived or recognized My ways and become progressively better and more experimentally and intimately acquainted with them.Hebrews 3:8-10 AMPC
The greatest impact that our apathetic heart makes is actually on God and our relationship with him. When our hearts are hard, we grieve and displease God. We end up damaging the relationship, cutting ourselves off from his intimate friendship and all that comes with it.
We become unable to experience his love, intimacy, patience, and miraculous influence in our lives.
- How has your apathetic heart impacted you?
- How has it impacted those around you?
- How has it impacted God?
- Take time to pray and write out how you can decide to pursue understanding and caring about the impact your heart has.
Submit: pursuing the direction God is taking us
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures…
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”James 4:2-3,7,10 NIV
When we have wrong motives and are swayed by the deceitful desires that arise from a heart that is hardened toward God, the Bible encourages us to choose submission and humility.
Here are the things that help me in this pursuit (which I am currently working on changing and growing in):
- First, praying in gratitude for God, focusing on his greatness and his qualities
- Second, praying about my needs and what I feel
- Third, instead of staying there and indulging, I also pray about what God thinks and feels as well as praying for others
- Fourth, before leaving my prayer, I have to make a decision in faithful obedience, something we see in the scripture below:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8 NASB
Jesus shows us the example of what humility and submission look like. It means to empty ourselves of our importance, being willing to be seen as less or even completely disregarded, and instead pursue prioritizing and serving others. Or rather, prioritizing and serving God.
One way I see this for me is when I have to sacrifice my desires for the desires of others. As a newly married man, I can still get bitter when I feel I have to sacrifice what I want for my wife. Whether it’s not getting to eat where I want to, watch what I want to, or do what I want to, I can at times feel embittered by the notion of having to consider and put my wife first, especially when I am tired.
However, when I can slow down and decide to enjoy my wife’s happiness and our togetherness, I no longer feel embittered by the thought of sacrifice, but rather am inspired by it. In this way, her happiness and our togetherness become a source of joy. In the same way we should submit to God’s desires, not begrudgingly, but with joy and gratitude in our hearts.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.1 Peter 4:1-4 NIV
When we live for God we may not be considered “normal” by the world around us. But we can have the joy and confidence that comes from being with and serving God. It is in this way that we become able to live out the freedom and the fulfillment he has planned for our lives.
God has destined for us to share this life with those around us. When we change our lives, and live in a joyful and fulfilling relationship with him, people will notice. God’s desire in this is that we inspire and help others to develop a relationship with him as well.
While the people in our lives may not understand and may respond harshly, God supplies us the joy and strength to keep loving so that they too can be saved, be freed, and be in a relationship with him. And there is no destiny that could be more inspiring than that.
- What step in your humble prayers with God do you get stuck on or lack in?
- How is God calling you to choose humility with him? Who can you reach out to to get help and accountability as you pursue this path?
- Who is God calling you to inspire and lead to him?
- Decide to reach out to a friend to help you on this journey for humility.
- Decide to serve a friend by asking them to study the Bible to get to know God.