When the New Normal is What’s Killing You

Your Day-to-Day Life is One of the Slyest Ways to Lose Sight of What Matters.

Mockingbird / 2.23.21

An excerpt by Ethan Richardson from our latest book, Daily Grace: the Mockingbird Devotional, Vol. 2. Click here to purchase.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Mt 23:27-28)

A friend of mine loves to tell his crab story to illustrate just how out of touch with reality he can be sometimes. He went to the doctor because he had been experiencing heart palpitations. The doctor also found that his blood pressure was through the roof. She asked him, “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?” He said no, no more than usual. She asked him if he could walk her through a usual day.

“Well,” he said, “I have been taking the kids to school before work. And I’ve been traveling for work lately. And I’m taking a couple night classes. And my wife and I are planning to put in a new kitchen. And my father-in-law’s been sick …” He went on, casually, for about ten minutes. Then he said, “But we’re cooking crab tonight, my favorite!”

The doctor looked at her chart, and looked at him, and reported, “As your doctor, I want you to know: You are under a lot of stress lately.” She continued, suggesting maybe his favorite food was crab because he was one — “growing more and more in love with your boiling pot.” As the demands of his life had gone up, he kept adjusting to a more excruciating new normal. His heart palpitations were just the latest signal that he was almost cooked.

Your day-to-day life is one of the slyest ways to lose sight of what matters. You do not need a family crisis to increase the temperature of your stock pot; you can do that all on your own. All you need is a free weekend and a to-do list. It feels good to cross each item out, to take care of business. But the thrill of your own competence easily becomes addictive, and as an overfunctioning crustacean, you lose your feeling for the waters you were meant for. Life in the boiling pot becomes the only life you know.

So it is with the woeful Pharisees, and why Jesus is trying to coax them out of the righteousness game in the passage above. They’re “killing it” everywhere — professionally, socially, even spiritually — and it’s killing them. Jesus commends to these dying crustaceans all the hope they (and we) ultimately have: Let yourself out of the stockpot of your own competence and start to feel your own pincers again. Only then will you feel again what matters and who you really are: one beloved, barnacled creature in a deep, blue sea.