Wishing For Not Normal: Erasing the Deep Darkness Within

Normal.  What is normal?  After all, what seems normal to some is abnormal for others.  When my work takes me out of town, I try to stay with friends, family, or colleagues as often as possible.  Not only is it more cost-effective, but doing this allows me to catch a glimpse into someone else’s “normal,” solidifying the fact that “normals” vary from person to person.  It is good to be stretched outside of my owns rhythms and comforts—my own normal— and see, taste, and feel the world they live in—my abnormal.

Finding myself homebound as I join more than half the world sheltering-in-place due to Covid-19, I keep wishing for things to go back to what they were more than a month ago.  I keep asking for my normal.  Yes, I am fortunate.  My fight is not on the front lines making life and death choices for others at the potential expense of my own life.  I have a comfortable home, a loving family, and adaptable work making my physical shift to being homebound rather easy. 

But I still desire to get back to my calendar, my friends, my goals, and my schedule; to regain my little corner of normal.

Under Construction

But then, something in me gives pause to my overwhelming desire of reclaiming my normalcy.  Maybe it’s the birds chirping in the early morning hours that remind me that God is still mysteriously, even in this season, making all things new.  Maybe it’s scripture like Psalm 137 that remind me of God’s power in love.  Psalm 137 still rings true.  

“The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing the exiles back to Israel.  He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds… How great is the Lord!  His power is absolute!”

Either way, the nagging within me makes me wonder if my “normal” is not something that needs to be rebuilt.  Normal is built out of daily, weekly, and monthly habits.  These habits keep us functioning in health as well as vital members of society.  However, some habits can become dysfunctional.   

 “Habits become choiceless and become compulsions which are not good for the soul because they quickly become attachments and addictions.  In the end robbing us of the true joy and freedom we thought we were receiving.”

— John the Cross and Teresa Avila

The Darkness Within

It’s easy for us to name the dysfunctional habits of drinking too much or overeating for comfort, but it’s hard for us to see the emotional programs for happiness we each unconsciously set up.  

We are all created with a fundamental desire to be loved and to give love.  Western culture teaches that we should be able to achieve satisfaction through our own means.  After all, when it is by our own means, it makes us feel accomplished and important, thus feeding our egos the extremely addicting drug of self-worth. 

Because our human senses cannot accommodate God Himself, we are drawn to the things of God; beauty, love, creation, etc.  If we’re not careful, we make God in our image, rather than find ourselves beautifully made in His.  Sometimes, unconsciously, habits turn into compulsions and addictions which prop up this false god within us—our ego.  Our egos feast on the man-made, self-made drug of self-worth.

If we're not careful, we make God in our image, rather than find ourselves beautifully made in His. ~ Mike Pumphrey Click To Tweet

I have always been a competitive person with constant drive to win, whether on the basketball court or in the classroom.  I remember my mom telling me that if I didn’t quit beating my friends (sometimes literally) that I would no longer have any friends.  I could see this desire at full work during college and early career as I fought to climb the corporate ladder.  Even, unexpectedly, in my pursuit of God and serving in ministry I found this competitive spirit alive and active.  What did Charlie Sheen so eloquently say?  “Winning!”

 “The false self is the syndrome of our emotional programs for happiness grown into sources of motivation and made much more complex by the socialization process, and reinforced by our overidentification with our cultural conditioning.”

— Thomas Keating

Keating is brilliantly saying that there is a deep darkness within us that we’ve designed for happiness… a frightening magic that we still claim, or are falsely claimed by. 

Internal Castles

We build internal castles for our insecure egos all the while crowding out “the Christ in us” that Paul talks about.  Our castle building is fueled by the false narratives we developed in childhood while searching for love.  As I type this, tears are welling up in my eyes and my heart is filled with anguish over the emotional programs for happiness I find riddling my own internal world.  These emotional programs, pursuits of love… I often trade them for the true belovedness of the One Divine Love.  The competitive spirit within me still meanders this maze in search of oneness with Christ.

 The Apostle Paul’s words so eloquently inform. 

“I don’t understand myself at all.  I really want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I do what I don’t want to do—what I hate.  I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws that I am breaking… No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right.  I want to, but I can’t.

Carl Jung was obviously on to something when he states, “The birth of the Self is always a defeat for the ego”.

A New “Normal”

You see, the more I wish for “normal” to come back into my life, the more I sense the Spirit of God saying normal can’t be normal anymore.  Why? Because normal is riddled with habits that have turned into attachments and addictions feeding the ego.  Normal has the propensity to overshadow the beautiful work of the Spirit that God has already placed in this world… the true me God has marvelously created. 

I believe, with this new “normal” God is somehow mysteriously drawing together, our lives will be changed forever. The new normal will once again have handshakes and hugs and gatherings of more than 10.  But, I am now praying for a new normal that is lead less from our unconscious addictions to programs for happiness, and led more by the Christ in us. 

Decluttering Questions

Questions to help us declutter our inner lives by finding “new normals.”

  1. What am I feeling and why do I feel this way in this moment? 
  2. Where do I allow the wonderings of my thoughts to lead to?  Begin to learn to cut off any thoughts that are not life giving to yourself and others. 
  3. What are the pressure points in your life?
  4. If you are constantly running low on energy, don’t just accept this tiredness, but begin asking if there are things running through my spirit unconsciously that is draining my life?

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About the Author
Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

Michael is a church planter, strategist, coach, and cultural architect who works with existing churches and church planters, helping them reimagine what the church can look like in our day. He has worked as a Strategist with the Bridge Network of Churches and currently works with V3 Coordinating a Church Planting Movement within the State of Virginia and beyond. Passionate about the potential for movement within the Church, he is constantly looking at unleashing the Imago Dei that resides within all humanity. This has become the constant pulse of Awaken Church, which he planted in the Virginia Beach area, as they have seen the expression of the church extend from the Neighborhood to Navy Ships.

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