I’m an ordinary guy who was raised in ordinary small towns among ordinary people working ordinary jobs for ordinary pay. And from those folks, I learned to love the ordinary. I was taught to see beauty in the ordinary; and there is something truly beautiful in doing a job, any job, well, in helping others, in being a good neighbor, and in the daily rhythm of life.
But it sure feels like ordinary just doesn’t cut it anymore.
In our world today, everything has to go the next level. Everything has to be “kicked up a notch.” Today, ordinary has become something to be ashamed of and avoided at all costs. The problem is that we seldom stop to think about all that we lose in our efforts to be anything but ordinary.
In his wonderful book “Ordinary,” theologian Dr. Michael S. Horton makes the following observation about our day and time: “To grab – and hold – our attention, everything has to have an exclamation point. We’ve become accustomed to looking around restlessly for something new, the latest and greatest, that idea or product or person or experience that will solve our problems, give us some purpose, and change the world. Although we might be a little jaded by the ads, we’re eager to take whatever it is ‘to a whole new level.’
‘Ordinary’ has to be one of the loneliest words in our vocabulary today. Who wants a bumper sticker that announces to the neighborhood, ‘My child is an ordinary student at Bubbling Brook Elementary’? Who wants to be that ordinary person who lives in an ordinary town, is a member of an ordinary church, and has ordinary friends and works an ordinary job? Our life has to count! We have to leave our mark, have a legacy, and make a difference. And all of this should be something that can be managed, measured, and maintained. We have to live up to our Facebook profile. It’s one of the newer versions of salvation by works.”
Wow! That’s a stinging – yet accurate – assessment of our current culture.
What’s worse is that this dismissive attitude toward the ordinary has crept into the church, causing us to overlook some of our most faithful saints and making it more difficult for us to see the workings and presence of God in everyday life.
Dr. Horton tackles this issue as well by asking a series of important questions: “I want to press the question deeper: Is the intense longing for revival itself part of the problem, fueling the feverish expectation for The Next Big Thing? Is it not remarkable enough that Jesus Christ himself is speaking to us whenever his Word is preached each week?…Is it not enough of a wonder that the Spirit is still raising those who are spiritually dead to life through his preached gospel? [Is baptism not enough of a demonstration of God’s miraculous grace?] And is it not sufficient that those who belong to Christ are growing in the grace and knowledge of his Word, strengthened in their faith by the regular administration of the Lord’s Supper, common fellowship in doctrine, prayer, and praise, guided by elders and served by deacons? Doesn’t the longing for revival tend to create the impression that between revivals you have lulls where the Spirit is not active at least in the same power or degree of power through these means Christ appointed?”
With those questions, Horton points us back to the biblical truth that God forms his people through “ordinary” processes and habits, and that God has always worked through “ordinary” people.
In Acts 4 Peter and John are brought before a Jewish council of leaders and taken to task for preaching Jesus. After a lengthy conversation about this, verse 13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.”
Isn’t that interesting? The ordinary-ness of Peter and John made it more recognizable that they were followers of Jesus Christ. That’s the kind of ordinary I want to be!
If you are interested in pushing back against our culture’s disdain for the ordinary, I invite you to join me in praying this prayer on a regular basis: “Dear God, open my heart and show me how you can use my ordinary life for your extraordinary purpose. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”