The Fog of Normalcy

Chicago-Illinois-USA-skyline-fogOne of the amazing abilities that human beings have is the ability to adjust to circumstances to the point that, after a while, they feel normal. That’s why people can live in the arctic: after generations, the bitter cold and dark/light cycle feels normal. It’s why babies eventually eat solids: after weeks of gagging on pureed rice or veggies, they realize that this is normal, and they adjust. This ability is how people do amazing things every day (like parent and wake up to an alarm clock and live in New York city) that we otherwise would not be able to do.

We live in a Genesis 3 world, though, and our ability to adjust and cope with a fallen world also means that we get used to things that did not exist pre-fall. Because these situations or occurrences are around us all the time, we usually don’t even think of them as results of the fall. Things like hunger, feeling hot or chilly, a bad night’s sleep, sunburns, traffic jams, burnt suppers, having to shower in order to not stink—the list is long.

We think these things are normal, or at least unavoidable, but they were not part of God’s good creation. They came in with sin. That’s another positive aspect of adjusting to living in a fallen world. We would lose our sanity if we could not cope with these things on a regular, even daily, basis. They are out of our control, and we must still deal with them. Thankfully, God has given us the ability to cope; we don’t go crazy when we regularly have to deal with these sorts of issues that are outside of our control.

But it’s not just the physical world that suffers the effects of the fall. The unseen does, too—feelings and relationships and souls. And this is where our ability to adjust has been twisted so that we get used to sin. Our very ability blinds and confuses us. So often, we think that everyday sin is normal, simply because it happens every day. But it is not normal, because it not only damages our relationships with other humans, but also because it offends God every time it happens.

There are many situations that we often think are normal that are actually horribly abnormal, especially for Christians. Fighting with your spouse is not normal (Eph. 5:22–33). Shouting at your kids is not normal (Eph. 6:4). Disobeying parents is not normal (Romans 1:30). Ingratitude is not normal (2 Tim. 3:2). Grumbling and complaining is not normal (Phil. 2:14). Friendship with the world is not normal (James 4:1). While they happen all the time, we should view these sins as strange, unusual, and meet them with sadness, especially when we are the ones at fault.

These situations are around us all the time, and they create their own moral fog. We can go along in life thinking that patterns of these sins are unavoidable in a fallen world, that they are normal just because we see them often. We can shrug them off and allow ourselves to continue in them, just as we shrug off traffic or blah lunches. But heavy traffic, while part of a fallen world, is not a personal moral issue. That’s a big difference, and it is a serious one. We won’t have to answer for crawling along a highway for a couple hours, but we will answer for our own moral disobedience, even when it seems normal to us. Both the traffic and disobedience are a result of the fall, but it is deadly to adjust to the latter.

And that’s where grace comes into play. Not only does God forgive our sins when we confess them, trusting in Christ’s obedience for us, but He also give us the Spirit so that through sanctification, we become more sensitive to our own sins. As we are conformed more and more into Christ’s image, we see fights and disobedience and ingratitude and grumbling as the awful offenses they are, bringing separation between us, God, and the people around us. When the light of the gospel comes shining into our lives, stronger and stronger as we grow in grace, the fog is burned off, and we can see sin for what it is. We can see how abnormal it is for us as believers to live in moral dimness. Even in an imperfect world, God is perfecting His people. Though we will not be sinless until glory, we can have some of Heaven’s brightness in us before we are in Heaven. That’s not normal. It goes far beyond adjusting; it’s a change of heart.