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Sunday, August 26, 2018

New Normal


There is in the book of Matthew 12 this really odd story that Jesus tells about what happens when he casts an evil spirit out of someone.  He says that when the evil spirit leaves the person, it wanders aimlessly until it decides to go back to the person where it finds things empty and open, so it moves back in with others and takes over. I think there is an important lesson in it, that has nothing to do with the evil spirit side of it.  In some ways, it is kind of like the old saying that “nature abhors a vacuum.”  

For many people in change points of life, there are these “empty spaces” that are the most painful or most lonely.  Weekends are one of those places.  If you are post-divorce, or recently widowed, or maybe relocated alone for example, the weekend may come around and you see all these people with their plans for Friday night or a Saturday outing, and you realize that you have no one to go with.  It can intensify the feeling of being alone.  

The same can be true of special places.  Like that favorite restaurant that you have eaten at for years, or the vacation spot you enjoy.  When you go through these times of change, those places can start to feel very awkward.  Places you once loved now make you feel out of synch.  Activities that you once loved just don’t feel the same.  

It can even be the case in your living space.  You can walk into an empty house and the walls just seem to echo with emptiness.  If divorced and the children happen to be at your ex’s, then the silence in the house can be deafening.  Or you can walk into the kitchen where the dishes are waiting and be reminded that you are the only one there to deal with them…because you are on your own.  For someone who has lived in shared space previously, these things can be hard.

Whether it is about the space, the experience or the activity, sometimes everything just feels out of kilter.  What do you do?  This is where I think the words of Jesus can be helpful.  To leave the “empty spaces” of our lives empty, will not be a useful place to be…it can just create problems.  Instead, we need to learn how to fill the empty spaces of our lives with something meaningful.  Let me explain.

When we come into an empty home, if the home is just as “it used to be” when YOU are not, or when the people in the home are no longer there, then perhaps it is time to make the home “NOT like it used to be.”  If that favorite restaurant now feels awkward because of past associations, then perhaps it is time to find a new restaurant you can claim as your own new discovery.  

Or when you have those long empty times such as weekends, maybe it is time to make a new activity the focus of that time.  Whereas you used to go to a movie on Saturday night, instead choosing to go help at the homeless shelter on Saturday nights instead.  It is as if you are reclaiming a piece of yourself as you stake out new uses for the empty spaces of your life, uses that are uniquely your own.

This kind of principle is found in Ephesians 4 in relation to a changed lifestyle.  Paul writes that we are to no longer tell falsehoods, but INSTEAD, we are to speak the truth in love.  Those who have been know to steal, INSTEAD need to work hard and develop the habit of giving!   No longer speak evil and disparaging words, but only words that impart grace and encouragement to others. 

It is the idea of intentionally choose NOT to live with a vacuum, but instead, to operate on the theory of replacement.  Or, as a friend of mine who happens to be visiting today said, you create a “new normal” for yourself.  So if you have places in your life that just feel like empty spaces, whether due to being an empty nester, newly widowed, recently divorced, relocated or for any number of reasons, I encourage you to consider ways to not leave those spaces empty, but see them as opportunities to express yourself in new ways and allow God to use you in new ministries you never knew you could do! Sure beats having an evil spirit and his buddies come back to attack, huh?  😊

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