This is not a book for normal people to learn how to handle difficult peoplethere is no such thing. This is a book about how imperfect people can pursue community with other imperfect people.
Not you, thats for sure! No one youve ever met, either. None of us are normal according to Gods definition, and the closer we get to each other, the plainer that becomes.
Yet for all our quirks, sins, and jagged edges, we need each other. Community is more than just a wordit is one of our most fundamental requirements. So how do flawed, abnormal people such as ourselves master the forces that can drive us apart and come together in the life-changing relationships God designed us for?
In Everybodys Normal Till You Get to Know Them, teacher and best-selling author John Ortberg zooms in on the things that make community tick. Youll get a thought-provoking look at Gods heart, at others, and at yourself. Even better, youll gain wisdom and tools for drawing closer to others in powerful, impactful ways. With humor, insight, and a gift for storytelling, Ortberg shows how community pays tremendous dividends in happiness, health, support, and growth. Its where all of us weird, unwieldy people encounter Gods love in tangible ways and discover the transforming power of being loved, accepted, and valued just the way we are.
The need for community is woven into the very fabric of our being. Nothing else can substitute for the life-giving benefits of connecting with othersnot even God. He wont preempt the way he himself has designed us to reflect his own intensely relational nature.
But theres a hitch in our experience of community, says John Ortberg: Were all weird. Folks around us may seem normal enough, but just wait till we get to know themand they get to know us. The unhealthy, sinful ways we respond to life in a fallen world are hardly Gods idea of "normal," and they can make us as unhuggable as porcupines. We face the "porcupine dilemma," says Ortberg: We need each other, but how do we get close without getting hurt? How do we get past all those quills and grow together in Christ?
In Everybodys Normal Till You Get to Know Them, Ortberg once again reveals his gift for sharing profound insights using a lighten-up approach. With winsome humor and a fondness for well-spun stories, he pops the myth of normalcy and hands us the keys to creating and sustaining relationships. "Gods dream for community encompasses the redemption of all spheres of life," he says.
Who doesnt want like to be liked, to be wanted, to have solid, satisfying friendships! Ortberg shows what such relationships are made of. He reveals the benefits of authenticitywhat it means to live with an "unveiled face," as the Bible puts it. He encourages us to trade the stones its so easy to cast at others for acceptance. He opens our eyes and heart to empathy, the art of reading people. And he takes us through the ins and outs of conflict, forgiveness, confrontation, inclusion, and gratitude.
The principles and discussion questions in this book are down-to-earth. Theyre for real people living in a real world, and are intended to help us count the practical cost of relationship and then pay itbecause in all the rewards and struggles of community, were investing in something beyond our comprehension. You could call it heaven. You could call it home. Its the place where all of us are headed, all of us belong, and all of us will be normal at last.
John Ortberg writes challenging books that also provide comfort for those who struggle along the way, and "Everybody's Normal..." is no exception. Starting from the theological concept of "depravity", Ortberg explains in an easy-to-grasp way that all human beings are like the goods in the "slight seconds" part of the store; we all carry an "as is" tag that means we have a fault somewhere. We can try to hide our faults by becoming high achievers and feeling superior to everyone else, often putting others down in the process, or we can withdraw into superficial relationships, never revealing ourselves for fear of how others will react.
However, this book suggests, there is another way, and so introduces the main theme of living in community. Much of the book is taken up with exploring what it means to live in community with others, and the attitudes and behaviour that genuinely make community a spiritually nourishing place. Again there is a clear theological base for this, with a discussion on the relational nature of the Trinity that presents an extremely complex idea in a way that fits in with the reader-friendly tone of the rest of the book.
While possibly not a book for those who have no knowledge of the christian faith - Ortberg refers to concepts and stories which he explains in simple terms, but still assumes his readers will be aware of them - this could easily be read by someone new to christianity who wants to make a difference in his or her life, as well as by a person who knows the in and outs of the faith and wants to be challenged afresh.
As the back of the book makes clear, this is not a self help guide that will help you to get along with all those dysfunctional people out there. John Ortberg is clear that we start from recognizing that we are as dysfunctional as the rest of them, and that God loves us, not in spite of our faults (or because of them), but because he longs for a deep and nurturing relationship with us. Yes, we need to change some of the ways we relate to ourselves, to others and to God, but the picture that this book describes of God's kingdom community makes it seem very worthwhile.
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