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John Ortberg is a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, and the author of If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat (which won a CT Book Award in 2002 in the Christian Living category), The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Growth for Ordinary People, and Love Beyond Reason. Dick Staub recently talked with him about his latest book, Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them, which is also reviewed today on our site.

Why is it important for people to understand that there are no normal people and that everybody's weird?

There's a deep theological issue going on. We tend to think about normal in terms of statistical averages. So if something is common, we think it's normal. But there's deep sense in which, from God's perspective because of the Fall, nobody is normal. Nobody lives up to the norms that God had in mind when he first created human beings.

And yet we still want to connect with "normal" people.

The human longings that are deep inside of us never go away. They exist across cultures; they exist throughout life. When people were first made, our deepest longing was to know and be known. And after the Fall, when we all got weird, it's still our deepest longing—but it's now also our deepest fear.

You know, the old question, How do porcupines make love? The answer is, Very carefully. People who study porcupines say that when it's their mating season—which is quite a short season—they actually do a little dance. There's a love dance of the porcupines. Even for those creatures who can easily create such hurt, it is possible to experience intimacy and community.

Was there something that triggered your desire to write about this?

I teach at a church, but my background ...

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May 2003

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