One of my favorite Christian writers, Eugene Peterson, passed away last October. I’ve been reading Eugene for years, ever since early books with such great titles as Run With the Horses or A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, the Lord installed cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the entrance, and He also “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Gen 3:21). That these two events coincided is not coincidental.
I can never make love to my wife without thinking what a crazy, preposterous, utterly unlikely thing is this business of sex. Who ever dreamed it up?
The religion of Christianity is full of extraordinary beliefs: that an invisible God created the entire universe; that this God became a man who lived and died on earth; that this dead man was resurrected to live forever; that we too, through belief in Him, gain eternal life, and can look forward to a heaven with no suffering, only joy and love; and so on.
The reason it is so vital for Christians to focus on the ordinary is that the Christian life cannot be understood in extraordinary terms. Who was looking for the Messiah to be born as a baby in a manger? Or who could have expected that He would die the common death of a criminal? If we’re looking for the extraordinary, we’ll miss the hand of God.
We have this expression ‘living life to the full’. But how can we live life to the full when life is, apparently, so full of mundane things and unremarkable events?
In 1974, a decade before joining the L’Arche community in Toronto, Henri Nouwen made a seven-month retreat at a Trappist monastery called The Genesee. He subsequently published his diary for that period, which ended on Christmas Day. Here is his final entry, dated Wednesday, December 25:
The nice thing about ordinary life is that there’s so much of it. It’s all around us, all the time, so if we can actually learn to like it, we’re home free.
We are marvelous creatures, fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet so much of what we do is utterly mundane.