When I was growing up, I sincerely tried to understand what God wanted from me. I even tried to do those things. (Well, most of the time, anyway.) But I didn’t feel (or seem) any different from anyone else. For all those years, I just felt like a bad boy trying to be good. I felt disingenuous, fake, a pretender. As I got older, eventually I got tired of all that work and decided to “just be myself.” I partied, I lied, I chased girls, and I generally tried to keep myself surrounded by a constant cloud of selfish entertainments.
Then one weekend when I was a sophomore in college, a girl I knew, Laura, was on a long drive home to see her parents. Tragically, she fell asleep at the wheel, wrapped her car around a tree, and was instantly gone. This jarring event profoundly impacted my perspective. Suddenly I saw my life through different eyes, asking questions I had never asked before. What if that had been me? What is my life about? Why am I here?
One place I started looking—partly for answers, although mostly for comfort—was in the pages of the Bible. I stumbled across Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13–14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” You don’t have to believe in the God of the Bible (or even in Jesus) to find the wisdom in that statement. Simply take a look at the people around you and consider: Where are their life choices carrying them?
If most people take that “wide” gate onto that “broad” road, then we’d have to say that’s what constitutes “normal.” And that’s what I had always wanted, too: to fit in, to belong, to be normal. But let’s be honest. Normal isn’t working very well, is it?
What is normal today? When it comes to our schedules, normal people are overwhelmed, stressed, and rarely have time for the most important things in life. Financially speaking, normal is debt, fear and living paycheck to paycheck. And in relationships, sadly, it’s just as normal for a marriage to end in divorce as it is for one to go the distance. I started asking myself, why would anyone want what’s normal? Turning Jesus’ words over in my mind, I couldn’t help wondering: Which of those two roads am I on?
That’s when I started getting some weird ideas. I started thinking about things that weren’t temporary, about things that had true significance and meaning. I tried to understand what mattered to God. And I started asking him, through prayer, to change me from the inside out, to help me see things the way he sees them. If I wanted a life like everybody else’s, I could keep doing what everyone else was doing. But if I wanted a life that was different, I was going to have to do things that were different. It was like a switch flipped. My mind changed, and my life followed suit. I had taken an exit, through that gate that opens onto a much smaller, lesser-known side road. I became different.
With newfound spiritual life, I started doing things normal people didn’t often do. I slowed down, rejected culture’s call to the overwhelmed life, and embraced spiritual and physical rest. I stopped plowing through one relationship after another, committing myself instead to lifelong community, intimacy, and lasting friendships. I lived within my means and shunned debt, and I started giving with radical generosity. I started to think more about eternity, living less and less for the moment. On the narrow road, I learned that life wasn’t about me, but that I existed to love the One who made me and to serve people sacrificially.
To be honest, when I quit acting like everyone else around me, people started calling me weird. Now, I find comfort in being told I’m weird. Because weird people don’t think like normal people think. And normal isn’t working.
Take a look around you. Do you look like, behave like, think like everyone else? If you do, chances are good you’re traveling that broad, comfortable, normal path. Deep down, you know there has to be something different, something better.I assure you: there is. Have the courage to abandon the pack and follow Jesus. His road leads to life.
I have to be honest with you, though. When you give your life totally to him, he’ll make you different. People will say you’re weird. But that’s a good thing, because normal isn’t working. It’s time to get weird—in the God kind of way.
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Craig Groeschel is the founder and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv. He, his wife, Amy, and their six children live in Edmond, Okla., where LifeChurch.tv began in 1996. A bestselling author, his latest new book is called WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working. His previous titles include The Christian Atheist, Chazown and It.