Everyone has an ordinary life. The Pope has an ordinary life. Movie stars and rock stars have ordinary lives. The person you would most like to be has an ordinary life—every bit as ordinary as yours.
To be sure, the famous have extraordinary aspects to their lives. But at the fundamental level, where we all live, everyone’s life is ordinary. Everyone eats, sleeps, defecates, looks in the mirror and can feel sad, dissatisfied, unfulfilled. There is no escaping ordinary life.
Think of the most famous musical group of all time—the Beatles. What ordinary fellows they were! The extraordinary sound they produced, and the extraordinary appeal of their music, did not arise from extraordinary lives. Rather, the magnitude of their talent amazes us precisely because we know the fab four were people just like us. Where did their talent come from? How to explain it? It is a gift, pure and simple. It did not arise from themselves but from beyond. Immense talent blooms like an exotic flower from the plainest of stock, and this phenomenon is inherently startling. It is something that ought not to be, yet it is. The surprise is meant to draw our eye to the true source of creativity, the Creator.
Does it? Or do we get trapped into thinking that if we too are not world famous we are somehow defective? The extraordinary is the exception, not the rule, but the ordinary is actually more important because it is always with us. If you cannot find God in your ordinary life, you will never find Him in the extraordinary. The Beatles broke up because all their extraordinary success did not lead them to God. Is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence? No, it is just grass. The only difference is that it’s on the other side, not here.
The ordinary life, the here and the now, is what must be embraced. Small, daily, mundane things should be the focus of the Christian life, the foreground and not the background. Naturally enough, we tend to make important things more important. But no—the unimportant, that is what is important.
Paul touches on this principle when, writing of the church as a body, he says, “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…. God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body” (I Cor. 12:22-5).
Are we experiencing division in our lives? Do we long for wholeness? Give greater honor to the ordinary. No spiritual discipline is more exacting, or more revealing of the true character of the soul, than that of living daily life well. Think of Brother Lawrence, who said he experienced more of God’s presence while washing dishes than in formal prayer.
Humility means letting the unimportant take precedence. If we do not make the ordinary our prime focus, supposedly larger and more significant goals will lead us astray and produce an unbalanced life. If, on the other hand, the ordinary is allowed center stage, great matters will look after themselves. They will happen, as they should, through the grace and power of God rather than through our own striving.
“Blessed are the meek,” said Jesus, “for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5). The earth will not be conquered by the strong, nor by the weak, but by the meek—by those who find power in humility.
Next Post: The Book of Life: The Ordinary Way (Part 4)