Last week our neighborhood lost power for a day. All day long I walked into dark rooms and flipped light switches out of habit. I’m not accustomed to operating in the dark.
As the hours passed, I began to worry about all the food we could lose in the refrigerator. No one was allowed to open the door.
The big supper I had planned was not to be. I wasn’t ready to deal with the camping stove, so I had my husband bring home a pizza.
Winter air seeped in through the house’s seams. We put on extra layers of clothing and went to sleep under extra blankets. After twelve hours of inconvenience, we just wanted things to go back to normal.
Normal. I recently saw a car commercial with the tag line “Normal can never be amazing.” Normal, as they defined it, is regular, average, and familiar. And they would remedy my regular, average, familiar life with a zippy little European car. Then it would be amazing.
But I have a better remedy: gratitude.
As Christians we know that the accumulation of things – regardless of how quickly they go from 0 to 60 – is not what makes life amazing. Life under heaven is already a wonder. But our consumption-crazed society is hoping we’ll forget that, and sometimes it’s hard to remember how to be grateful for our regular, average, familiar days. And with the world constantly telling our kids they need to get more and do more, it can be even harder to teach them how to do it.
So what do we do? Since gratitude is a posture of the heart and not just words we say, a lot of it is up to the Holy Spirit. As with all spiritual matters, our job as parents is simply to prime our children’s hearts to respond to his working. We can pray for them. We can tell stories about gratitude and ingratitude (and resist the temptation to moralize!). We can take turns naming one thing we’re grateful for at the end of the day. We can write a list of everything we can think of that makes up a normal day and then make up stories about what happens when one normal thing doesn’t work. Like electricity.
Most importantly, we can model it, especially during disruptions like power outages. Disruptions are great reminders of how amazing our normal is, and they’re opportunities for us to choose gratitude and wonder. They remind us how little we actually need and how profoundly meaningful our lives are, even without all the accessories. (And just so you know, this is not one of my strengths. That has become abundantly clear as my kids have begun mirroring some of my attitudes.)
I want a heart that doesn’t moan that my life is too normal or grumble when that normal is disrupted. I want to be thankful in all circumstances and to model the belief that all things work together for good to those who love God. When the unexpected comes, I want to land on the side of the teachable disciples and not the rigid Pharisees.
I want to be wonderstruck by the beauty in my regular, average, familiar dance of days. And in doing so, I want to help my kids build a bridge across the culture-imposed gap between normal and amazing. A bridge built of gratitude.
By the way, our power was restored late in the night last week. The next morning I got out of bed, flipped a plastic switch on the wall, and there was light – just like normal.