The Beauty (and Sneakiness) of Ordinary

I’ve known for a long time that I’m kind of ordinary. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy wrestling through this depressing truth. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know all the “right” responses to this…”There’s only ever been one of me in all of history”, “God made me special”, “If I were the only photo-13person on earth, Jesus would have still come for me”, “No one shares my fingerprint or DNA, literally and metaphorically”, etc, etc etc.

It’s just that my culture of famous, notable ministers, of passionate coffee-drinking, creative/hipsters changing the world, and social media allowing me to see it all, have combined to give me a deeply entrenched inferiority complex, leading to some rather profound spiritual wounding. Those with intense and successful ministries, tell me that to really be a disciple of Jesus, my life must be radical. My deeds awesome. My sacrifice epic. In fact, they use their personal examples of how God has used them, to encourage me to pursue great things for my great God. And I agree with almost everything they say, even as I come up short by comparison. Then, there are creative/hipsters out there who live these amazingly interesting lives pursuing their dreams…and who inadvertently shame me for, ironically enough, financially supporting their creativity through my consumption and encouragement of their attempts to change the world.  Then, Facebook lets me see glimpses of other’s extraordinary lives that look so much more meaningful and, honestly, more fun, than mine… that my heart, immediately and without too much of a push, goes to some dark and self-condemning places.

It isn’t hard to see how I could begin to think, “Hmmm…this says something about how God feels about me… that His plan for me is so…ordinary.”

What bothers me most is not that I will never win a Nobel prize, or build an orphanage in Asia, or lead a movement-starting ministry. It is that God has called me to be ordinary. As far as I know, I am not living a disobedient life to my Savior. And as a result of my faithfulness to Him, I live in a rather nondescript suburb of a pretty average city. I am pursuing an important, but not a particularly world-shaking profession. I go to a healthy and loving local church, but we aren’t pumping out best-selling books, hosting large conference or creating paradigm shifting worship albums. My personal ministry is very fulfilling, but no one will look at my “numbers” and do anything but yawn. Most of my days are spent getting kids off to school, cooking and cleaning, driving, bed time routines, conversation and Parks And Rec reruns with my husband in between it all.

I am ordinary. By both providential calling and gifting. Sigh.

What I’m finding though, is that ordinary can be beautiful. And learning to find Jesus and His love in the ordinary parts of life is actually a most extraordinary pursuit. Because, while ordinary is where I live, it is where Jesus lives too.

In the naps, in the snuggles, in the casseroles, in the traffic jams, in the coffee, in the time spent pairing up socks.

He is enough. I am enough. 

There is beauty in the sacrifice required to be a parent to kids day in day out, in learning to put the needs of another in front of my own and learning to enjoy it even. There is beauty in being fully present at my church every Sunday…faithfully worshipping God, serving others, offering my gifts, and receiving the gifts of others. There is beauty in a marriage that is best represented by an open front door, a well-used kitchen table, a refrigerator with kids’ report cards and artwork stuck to it, and a bed that my beloved husband and I have decided will only, and ever be, just for the two us to share. There is beauty in following Jesus as best as I know how in the middle of all of this.

Most healing…most growth…most blessings…are found in the ordinary places of our lives. And the gift wrap they come in is the ordinary people and relationships that we often overlook. “Ordinary” can be sneaky that way.

Not everyone gets to change the world. But everyone can be changed.  Jesus extends the invitation to become more like Him, (which is indeed quite extraordinary) in the midst of our ordinariness. And it is a goal that everyone has the potential to reach. I can be a success in His eyes, in my eyes, by being exactly who He has created me to be, exactly where He has placed me, doing exactly what He has asked me to do.

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.


 

The greatest love stories are those that play out all around us in the middle of ordinary.  An Ed Sheeran song, of all things, gives beautiful words to this in a wonderful married person’s love song. He sings, “We found love right where we are.” Most of us do, you know.

If you haven’t seen The Lego Movie yet, what are you waiting for? It is a celebration of how ordinary is often a sneaky cover for extraordinary. And, I totally could have given this speech.

 

The Value of Sitting, Being Present, Being Still and Listening (Jesus pt. 88)

It was early one morning and I was sitting with my Jesus, trying to be present, trying to be still, trying to listen. The moment wasn’t about communication with words. It was about being where He was. About making a physical statement that I wasn’t trying to move away.  About opening my heart rather than trying to fix it on my own. About getting quiet enough to see what would happen and how He would lead our time together.

Mug from our honeymoon. Bible. Journal. Jesus.

And parts of the experience were so frustrating.

I would start to form words to talk with Him when I sensed I just needed to sit, to be present, to be still, to listen. My mind would begin to wander to things I tried to convince myself were important… that were important… and I’d sense the need to sit, to be present, to be still and to listen. To park them in the proverbial parking lot so He and I could get to them later while we did this other, more pressing work in our relationship. Eventually, my thoughts slowed down and the mental distractions diminished.

Then my heart began to weigh in. Emotions unexpectedly emerged. As Jesus asked me to sit there in my office that morning, it was representative of how it has felt as He’s asked me to sit here during this prolonged season of life. Where the most exciting thing He’s asked of me some days is to sit, to be present, to be still, to listen. I found myself feeling so unvalued. So unloved. And by extension, so unvalue-able and so unloved-able.  I had recently watched many near me get really great, fun and exciting assignments…opportunities that have taken them to really great, fun and exciting places to serve Him, to love His people and those who are on their way to becoming His people. I couldn’t help but feel that my assignment during the same time must indicate something of how He feels about me. That my greatest contribution must be getting out of other people’s and His way.

By sitting with my Jesus, by being present, by being still and listening, I was putting myself in a position for important but hidden things in my heart to emerge. To hear Him speak to me about those things. And oh, how I needed to hear Him speak to me! One thing I’ve learned about walking with Jesus over the years…while He may not always change my external circumstances…when He speaks, He always changes my internal condition. He always changes something in me. He always changes me.

Sitting, being present, being still and listening are doors to relationship with Him. Microphones that allow me to hear His voice when normal life might drown Him out. Hammers that bust up the box I try to put Him in. Tender embraces where He holds me close and with great affection.

Life ebbs and flows in seasons. Some appearing busier than others to the untrained eye. Some falling into different categories by the world’s method of categorizing things – like usefulness, value, love. God’s cycle of seasons can look very different than our preferences, His categories defying our natural predilections. What appears to some as dormant on the outside can be bustling with activity on the inside. Healing from the past. Preparation for the future. Special gifts in the present that would go unnoticed if life were busier. What I think may be a statement of low worth and lack of love can actually be a powerful indicator of great worth and deep love. God is surprising and mysterious that way.

What I thought that morning was the pinnacle of passivity became a most powerful and active demonstration of His love in my life.  And it was open to me because I was willing to learn to sit, to be present, to be still and to listen.