The Beauty Of The Ordinary

I didn’t sleep a WINK last night. Not one. Never slept. I lay in bed for six hours, never falling asleep. Those nights are horrible – the harder you try to fall asleep the less possible it becomes to actually fall asleep.

By the way, I live in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. Most of the time, I really love it. I’m only about a mile from the city center, so late at night, one can hear all kinds of interesting things through the open window. And by "interesting things," I usually mean drunken 30-something guys coming home from the pub at 3 a.m. singing football (soccer) supporter songs or the ever-popular "Flower of Scotland".

Last night was no exception. Laying there, listening to the drunken singing outside the window, I let my thoughts drift. My train of thought moved from realizing how blessed I am to live overseas, to realizing how the excitement of living here has turned into a mundane everydayness, to despising that very idea. Having been here for almost two years, after moving from the States; life in Scotland has become very … ordinary.

No one wants to be ordinary. When life becomes ordinary, we want a new life. Yet usually, life is ordinary. And we hate that.

A few years ago a movie came out starring Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz called A Life Less Ordinary. It’s a weird flick (directed by Danny Boyle, of Trainspotting and The Beach fame), but not bad in the end. And it’s got a great soundtrack by the way.

But it was an intoxicating title, above all. It was enough to get me to see it. Its plot certainly wasn’t ordinary, not really the road you might want to go down, unless you’re into a life of crime. What we all wouldn’t give, for a LIFE … not just a moment, not just a day, but a life that is more than ordinary.

Then came a song by Avril Lavigne: "Anything But Ordinary":

Is it enough to love? Is it enough to breathe?

Somebody rip my heart out & leave me here to bleed

Is it enough to die, somebody save my life

I’d rather be anything but ordinary please

These lyrics literally made me sad. Why do we desire such extreme pain or such extreme exuberance, simply in order to feel alive? It’s the basis behind every excessive drink, illegal drug, sexual perversion (no matter how "innocent" it looks), roller coaster ride, sky diving jump … the list goes on.

It’s not all bad, you know. There’s much to be said for simple thrills. I love roller coasters. I enjoy a nice pint of Guinness Extra Cold. I like to travel. I love a sweet kiss. But as soon as we are discontent with the small things, we demand bigger, and when we get it, we demand on extremes. What starts off as one drink turns into a life of alcohol. One hit turns into a lost life. One sexual encounter turns into two, which turns into a whole other life to be dealt with.

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I think I’m learning more and more about the beauty of the ordinary. Life is made up of a severe "everydayness." And that’s okay. We wake up and we get in the car and turn the key to go to the store to buy some milk to use in our cereal that we’ll eat for lunch while watching Saved By the Bell reruns before work starts in the afternoon, where we meet the same old lady that orders a roast-beef sandwich with no mayo and no onion. But if we are fixated on the ordinary and our struggle to run away from it, we miss the beauty of the lines on that old lady’s face, or the simple blessing of having a heater in the car, or the amazing sunrise that we missed while we were in the shower.

I have a love-hate relationship with Luke 12:27. I love it because of what it says. I hate that it’s so over-quoted that no one stops to think about the actual verse anymore.

Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

How beautifully stunning is this verse! Here, Jesus says, take a closer look at the beauty of God’s creation. That flower, and how it grows is so much more lovely than even a king in his finest. We demand the extraordinary, when God has given us the beautiful ordinary. Or, maybe it’s not that ordinary. Maybe we’re just too used to it. Let us go beyond our complaints and our constant demands for more than His perfect gifts.

[Michaela Forbes is a Youthwork and Theology major in Edinburgh, who spends her days reading the first half of books, and telling kids to get off her front lawn. She’d like to thank Lothian Buses and Tim Goldsmith for their contributions to this article]

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