There are times when I say, “I just want to be normal again.” It’s hard to adequately describe, but my brain has changed since OCD took over my life. I feel less cognitively capable than I used to be. I remember the capacity I once had and it’s hard for me to believe that I functioned somewhat successfully under the stress and commitments that I had in my life. Yet, I still felt like a failure most of the time thinking of all of the other things I should have been doing in addition to my commitments. Living under the constant guilt of unrealistic standards is not a joyful place to be.
I lived so many years in the bonds of legalism. My life and my actions were completely motivated by rules to keep me safe. I am so glad that the Lord blew that up and I recognized for the first time, it is for “freedom Christ has set us free”(Galatians 5). Once free, I lived in joyful contentment of that recognition for quite a few months, just breathing in the air of liberation.
But then there is real life. And I come back to reality where rules are a part of life, and so I have to make choices as to how I am going to operate in the world. I find with more freedom there are more decisions, more options. I’m free, yes, but I’m also now being forced to reevaluate who I am and what I want independent from these rules I once was enslaved to. Although freedom is amazing, it brings on a whole new set of fears. Fear of choice, and the constant nagging thought of “what if I make the wrong one?”
Ed Welch but it this way in his book Running Scared (pg. 20-21):
Both oppression and freedom can incite fear. Freedom resolves the fear and anxiety associated with persecution and oppression, but it increases the fear of personal failure, which is one reason Soren Kierkegaard said that anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. With freedom comes more choices, which mean more opportunities to get it wrong. Freedom or oppression- pick your poison. They both contribute to our fears and anxieties.
So when I say “I just want to be normal again,” it’s true that part of me is pining for the old days. Those days when yes, I was enslaved, but I knew my purpose, my methodology made sense and I didn’t have to deal with the tension of fighting for faith in the midst of all new fears. The dysfunctional comfort of what is known. I’m wondering if that is part of what the Israelites felt when they were wandering in the desert pining for days of Egypt. It seems so wrong to want to go back to slavery, but the bible warns us that after freedom is found, “stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5). This must be, then, a common temptation for those of us who have been set free.
Sometimes I think that the learning will just be over when I have suffered through a trial and experienced growth. I think: I am free now, so the hard work is over. But sanctification is a process, so I am always coming to a deeper understanding of what abundant life really means. I am always continuing to learn how to truly live, and that living is found through dying to self. So I need to embrace this tension that there will be a struggle as I am growing to understand more of how to have faith in the midst of new fear. I don’t really want to go back to the old. What I really want to learn is how to thrive in a new normal. A renewed normal.
Sure that new normal may mean more mental processing time and random fears that come and MAKE NO SENSE. I may feel like I’m wandering around like a lost puppy sometimes. My life purpose may be a little less clearly defined than before. And yes, there will be challenges. But GOD…He is mighty to save and He is not through with me yet. He will help me learn to live, really truly live, a renewed normal.