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?
Happiness is only possible in the present moment, yet the overwhelming majority of our moments are utterly ordinary. Therefore, if we want to be happy, we must learn to love the ordinary. It’s good to have lofty dreams and aspirations, but if we let future goals so control us that they overshadow our present reality, we will not be happy.
This is true even of our hope for heaven. The true measure of our faith in heaven is the quality of our everyday life. Eternity begins now, not in the future; otherwise it would not be eternal. How we live right now directly determines how we shall live in the future. Happiness is only to be found in the present, right under our noses, by learning to appreciate the very commonness that we might hope to escape. The future is always abstract, whereas the present is concrete—full of laundry and pimples and garbage cans and clouds and children. We must inhabit the present moment, rather than speeding by it on our race to the future. As the poet Wallace Stevens put it, “The worst of all things is not to live in a physical world.”
Why does God love our ordinariness? Because the more ordinary we are, the better His glory shines through us. And He wants to be glorified.
We may think we have to be wonderful, remarkable people in order to impress God, or else to impress the world on His behalf. But really the opposite is true. The greater we are, the harder it may be to humble ourselves, and the more ordinary we are, the more obvious it will be that we have a great God. When the Jewish leaders realized that Peter and John were “unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
We think the world needs to see how happy and well-adjusted Christians are, how much fun we have, what great accomplishments we achieve in art and sports and business, and how enviable is our quality of life. But is this God’s plan for evangelism, or ours? Is this even what the world truly wants to see? Is the world impressed by all our greatness? Or if they are, isn’t that a problem? Shouldn’t they rather be impressed by the greatness of God?
God needs our ordinariness in order to impress the world with His greatness. “Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master … If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us” (2 Cor. 4:5-7, The Message).
Not only does God’s glory shine best in our plainness, but we connect with Him and with others much more through our weakness than through our strength. What non-believers truly want to see in Christians is not how much better our lives are than theirs. No, what they’re looking for is one thing: love. They want not strong, competent superheroes but ordinary, broken people who love each other. For the people of the world are ordinary and broken themselves and in need of love––the love that cancels mistakes, values what is lowly, mends broken hearts. People long to be included, and love is their one entrance point, the one place any of us can squeeze into the kingdom.
Whether we like it or not, the great goal of life is love. Without it we have nothing. Surely the function of the ordinary—this immense tract of stuff in our lives that seems to have no great, lofty purpose—is to break up our attachment to what we consider important, and to re-focus us on the one thing that is important: love.
The way to live fully is to lovingly embrace all that is ordinary in our lives. There is no other way.
Next Post: Prefer the Ordinary: The Ordinary Way (Part 7)