When Life Feels Terribly Ordinary
By Cara Joyner
May 27, 2014
Cara Joyner is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom living on the East Coast with her husband and two sons. After years of working in student ministry, she has come home to raise her boys and to pursue new ministry opportunities. She loves hanging out with college students, watching Parenthood and eating chocolate like it's one of the food groups. Read more at carajoyner.com or find her onTwitter @cara_joyner.
When we were kids, everything was new and the world beyond childhood brimmed with adventure. Then as we grew, we learned that there are some extraordinary moments spread across time, but that in between those peak experiences, there’s a lot of ordinary, everyday grind.
There are trashcans to empty, laundry to sort (and if we’re feeling especially motivated, maybe even put away). Cars must be registered. Forms filled out. Carrier plans chosen. We move through our routine day in and day out, packed with little moments that may often feel unbearably ordinary.
Looking around in all the mess we can convince ourselves that other people are living in the “more” we dream of while we drag our feet through the dull and less interesting.
In their song, “Come Away,” Jesus Culture sings about the invitation of God, “Come away with me. It’s going to be wild. It’s going to be great.”
Really? It’s going to be wild? A lot of people have jumped on board and aren’t feeling the rush. I believe it’s true and that Jesus offers the abundant life He came for us to have, but sometimes it’s hard to see.
It's Going to Be Wild
It’s hard to find the life while fighting to finish school and pay the bills with night jobs; and there isn’t a lot of adventure for the parent changing 10 diapers before lunch. That wild story we were promised might seem distant for the person who spends each morning in traffic only to return to the gridlock at 5 p.m.
This tension between the passionate narrative we talk about and the very normal world we exist in isn’t something to be ignored. It’s a tension that should tell us something, serving as a flag to wave us down and readjust our perspective.
This tension between the passionate narrative we talk about and the very normal world we exist in isn’t something to be ignored.
Eyes to See
Jesus once had a conversation with the 12 about the people who didn’t get it. They were the ones who couldn’t see the big picture of the Kingdom—they were blind to a reality beyond what they could imagine.
The 12 weren't so quick on the draw themselves. They wanted a Messiah to ride in on a flaming horse, overthrow the Romans and usher in a glorious new age of divine dominion. They got a Messiah who washed their feet.
Perhaps this tension that we find—living in a normal world full of dirt and pain and tedious movement while knowing that we were also made for more—maybe it is resolved when we pray for, and choose to have, eyes to see what the disciples saw ... not just in those rare retreat moments when we catch a glimpse of glory, but eyes to see it always.
When we wake up daily with a full awareness of how powerful God is and how deeply He loves us, the ordinary becomes saturated with life. And it is wild.
It’s wild because not only do we breathe in and out under this perspective of God’s sovereignty, but we also remember that this incredible God invites us into the enormous story He is writing.
I often ask my 3 year old to help me cook. I don’t do it because I need his assistance. In fact, it would be easier and more efficient if I took care of it myself. But I invite him to help because I love him. It’s the same interaction between God and us. He calls us into His redemptive work not because He is lost without us, but because He loves us and is offering us a role in the story. That is the otherness we dream of. It’s oxygen on a fire that would otherwise burn out.
Having eyes to see this wild reality comes down to where we set our gaze. We either focus on the grind, letting ourselves drown in that sink of dirty dishes or be crushed below the weight of monotonous tasks, or we choose to live above it. We choose to focus our eyes higher and “contemplate the Lord’s glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
How can we do that in the midst of exhaustion and disappointment? Here are a few places to start.
1. Remember What it Means to Become More in Christ’s Economy.
We may sometimes forget that to be more does not mean to be bigger. It doesn’t mean more followers, prestigious titles, higher salaries or less annoying work. To be more first means lowering ourselves to the ground in a humility that acknowledges the dust from which we came; and from this vantage point, with our face on the earth, the story explodes with possibility and mystery.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Ordinary Moments.
The repetition of the day-to-day matters because change often happens in the places we most easily brush off. We develop eyes to see when we practice the discipline of contentment and gratitude, and we begin to find that those seemingly insignificant places are soaked with God and that this is where the simple becomes extraordinary.
The repetition of the day-to-day matters because change often happens in the places we most easily brush off.
3. Cut Out the Empty Fillers.
The greatest distractions keeping us from having eyes that see are self-inflicted. Facebook, television, phones, scrolling the Internet looking for something new—at face value they are harmless, but when we run to them out of restlessness and use them to satisfy a hunger for something deeper, it’s like eating potato chips when what we really need is a balanced meal. It’s empty calories for our soul, and over time, we feel the effect of that malnourishment.
4. Get Your Hands Dirty.
When Jesus spoke with the disciples about the people who didn’t get it, I have to wonder what part of that was because for the observing crowd, it was a spectator sport. If we are going to live in an awareness of God’s power and redemptive work in the world, we have to get our hands dirty. We have to roll up our sleeves and do more than attend a service and join a small group.
Jesus sent the disciples out and then they kept moving. They never settled into a church routine that centered around them. If we accept the invitation to be a part of what God is doing, we capture the vision of a Kingdom infinitely greater than our own.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
This is where the adventure starts and the wild ways of God overturn our still, quiet worlds. Maybe it carries us across the ocean. Maybe it settles us right where we are. But the truth is that regardless of circumstance, there is a powerful, passionate story on the move and we are called to join. Whether or not we see it will be determined by where we choose to look.