A new view of normal
We long for constancy in our lives. So it’s not unusual to hear someone speak with trepidation about a “new normal.” Whether this comes from an impatience to get back to “normal” or a concern that there is no going back to the old “normal,” it begs the question, What really is “normal”? Can there ever be a “normal” that is certain and consistently good?
Mary Baker Eddy, in her pioneering works on spirituality and healing, put forward what some would consider a rather unconventional view of constancy. A search for the word normal in her extensive writings uncovers several concepts she apparently considered fundamental facts of existence: Health is normal. Harmony is normal. Good is normal. (See, for example, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 200.)
Looking around and seeing the news, one might not necessarily reach the same conclusion. In fact, in her own life, Mrs. Eddy faced considerable illness, loss, and hardship. And yet, she grew to view these experiences not with resignation, but with a spiritual conviction that health, harmony, and good are in fact normal, natural, and inevitable. This conviction was based on an understanding of good as the very definition of God. She writes of God as divine Principle—consistent, universal, changeless good—and of the true identity of each of us as spiritual, made in God’s image, as the Bible says. Understanding Principle to be only good and the only cause, it follows that everything that proceeds from Principle must be good and that good must be the only reality. If unvarying good is the fact of being, and we’re each actually spiritual, then illness, discord, accident, and injustice have no standing in this spiritual creation. Here is a “new normal” to be reckoned with!
Acknowledging and understanding God, and then living in obedience to divine Principle, changes us from the inside out. It brings hope and healing. Our sense of what’s normal shifts—not from moderate to extreme or from bad to worse, but from a view of good as uncertain to a perspective that good is real, secure, and dependable. We are made new every day, but this newness isn’t jarring or unsettling; it brings peace and stability to our lives.
Health is normal. Harmony is normal. Good is normal.
Christ Jesus urged his listeners to adopt a new view of normal. Many of the people he healed, people who may have become resigned to living with pain or incapacity (a very unwelcome new normal), found that not only were they physically whole, but their hearts were awakened and roused.
Jesus encouraged people to no longer be content just to live for themselves, just to grind out a living. In the words of one adherent of Jesus’ teachings, the Apostle Paul, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould” (Romans 12:2, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English). Jesus’ words and example challenged his followers, including us, to “love one another as I have loved you,” and to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (John 15:12; Matthew 10:8, New King James Version).
This love was put to the supreme test when Jesus willingly faced and overcame the crucifixion. His resurrection overturned the world’s concept of normal. It set his disciples on a new path. “His resurrection,” Mrs. Eddy writes, “was also their resurrection. It helped them to raise themselves and others from spiritual dulness and blind belief in God into the perception of infinite possibilities” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 34).
Jesus’ resurrection took three days. The disciples’ took longer. Jesus met with them several times over the course of many days after his resurrection. He comforted them, counseled them. And yet, Peter apparently still had reservations about whether he had what it took to carry on the work. He reverted to his old normal—he went fishing. But the Christ would not let him settle for less than a full resurrection from “spiritual dulness and blind belief.” The risen Jesus continued to counsel Peter until he was prepared to accept a completely new view of life, a completely “new normal,” and his new role in sharing Christ-healing with the world. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked him. When Peter answered affirmatively, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17, 18, Eugene Peterson, The Message).
As we awaken to this reality of Life and Love as God, we discover the continuity and stability of a true, God-created normal, right here with us, totally uninterrupted, no matter what seems to be going on around us. We understand more and more how we can experience normal—not the normal of “back to our regularly scheduled materiality” but the spiritual normal of experiencing and expressing ever-present, all-encompassing, unselfed divine Love.
Linda Kohler, Guest Editorial Writer