Everyone has an ordinary life. The Pope has an ordinary life. Movie stars and rock stars have ordinary lives. Presidents and great artists and workers of miracles have ordinary lives. The person you are most jealous of 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 may feel sad, dissatisfied, unfulfilled. There is no escaping the ordinary life.
Think of the most famous musical group of all time. What ordinary fellows the Beatles 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 astounds 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 amazing. It is something that ought not to be, but it is. Our 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? No, it is just grass. The only difference is that it’s over there, 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 spiritual life, the foreground and not the background. Naturally we tend to magnify important things. But no—the unimportant, that is what is important.
Paul (the Apostle, not the Beatle) 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. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But 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. How we admire Brother Lawrence who said, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen … I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
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.