Up until the age of ten I lived what I would describe as a “normal” middle class American life. I was part of a family that had a dad, a mom, and three kids. We lived in a small but nice house with a Ford in our single car garage. We went to church every Sunday. We looked and lived like everyone else.
But a month after my tenth birthday I lost normal. My dad died and my mother, who was 36 at the time, was left to raise three girls: twelve, ten, and eight. There were hospital bills and no insurance. My mom worked two, sometimes three jobs to, as she used to say, “keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs.” While she wanted to be there to do all the normal mom things, it just wasn’t possible. The year after Dad died we moved out of our house and during the next eleven years of my life I lived in a series of seven different apartments and rental houses. Our family no longer looked or acted like everyone else. We were different. To me, we weren’t normal.
I thought I would feel normal again when I got out of college and got married. And in some ways I did. We moved into a small one bedroom apartment and I went to work. My husband went to seminary and worked on a part time basis. Money was tight. Our college friends started buying houses and having babies. We struggled to pay tuition and delayed starting our family so my husband could finish school.
I was sure that once we had a baby, bought a house, had a second baby and a second car I’d be and feel like everyone else. But things didn’t go according to plan. My husband graduated from seminary. We had our first child. Life was good. I got pregnant with our second child. It ended up being a tubal pregnancy. The tube ruptured and I almost died. We bought a house. We discovered we couldn’t have any more children. We adopted our second child. We moved to a new area where housing prices were higher. Interest rates at that time were in the double digits. Money was once again tight. I had a second tubal pregnancy. On and on it went. Good times followed by bad times. I’d relax and feel like we were in a good place. Someone would die. There would be another financial crisis. I kept thinking that if I tried hard enough everything would be fine. If I prayed more, worked harder, we’d have a better year. A normal year.
And then one day I realized that the life I was living was normal. That life for everyone includes loss and difficult times. That normal meant everyone else was going through, in some way, shape or form, what we were going through. Sometimes their problems were smaller. Sometimes they were larger. But the bottom line was that no one makes it through life without scars and pain and difficult times.
The more I thought about it the more I realized that what I wanted wasn’t a normal life. What I wanted was heaven on earth. I wanted a place where things went according to my time table, my plan. A place where I could be happy and at peace all the time. Where I felt safe and secure. Where I never had to worry. But we live in a fallen world. An imperfect place. A place where sin is the norm. A place where perfect isn’t possible.
So, I’m working on shifting my focus. I’m trying to concentrate on the fact that God does have a plan for me in His story. And that everything that happens in my life is moving me towards the remarkable final chapter. A chapter that truly does end with perfection and happily ever after.
Until then I’m just going to have to settle for a normal broken life.