Is being ordinary the new extraordinary?
What do you think?
I went to see my ophthalmologist today. As I sat in the waiting room, I saw three brochures, one for each doctor in her practice. Each brochure looked professional and well done, and I couldn’t help but pick them up to see what had been written.
To the right of a very professional head shot was a paragraph detailing the doctor’s credentials, educational background and work history. The following paragraphs went on to list further achievements, as well as how each doctor had distinguished him or herself within their respective field and specialty.
Reading the literature got me to thinking about how much we all crave status and fame. We seem to all hunger to be the best and do something extraordinary. We have a problem with not excelling…and we all seem to want to have our 15 minutes of fame (this feeling may fade as we age, but most of us wrestle with this at some point).
Don’t get the wrong idea about what I’m saying here. Medical professionals should submit themselves to extensive learning and be credentialed. We certainly don’t want to place our lives in the hands of a doctor who got his license out of a box of cracker jacks! But, I get the impression that most people want to be able to cite a list of accomplishments in some area or another. We want to feel like we’re a “somebody.” We don’t want to be ordinary; being ordinary is for losers who haven’t distinguished themselves in any way.
This is America, after all! And being the “best” is basically imprinted on our cultural life-chip as soon as we’re born. It’s like there’s a subconscious branding by society: Be the best! Reach for the stars!
The competition virtually begins in the cradle: How soon did your baby talk? How early did she learn to walk? Do you have any potty-training bragging rights? And it continues throughout life: How early can I get my child to read? How early can I get them into head start or the best daycare possible? Of course, this is necessary to position them to get into the best primary and secondary school there is, which will hopefully help to catapult them into an ivy-league school.
Interestingly, this kind of thinking is contrary to how the Kingdom of God works.
When I ponder the scriptures, I find that mostly everything we crave in life is turned upside down by the gospel. As Christ followers, we are asked to live a counter-cultural, inside out kind of life, just like Jesus did (Romans 12:2). Even greater than that, we are asked to lose our life for the sake of the cross (Matthew 16:24-26).
If nothing else, the life of Jesus teaches us that it’s OK to have a humble status in life. It’s OK to not be impressive. It’s OK to be of “no reputation” before men (Philippians 2:1-11). That doesn’t make a person of any less worth in the eyes of God; maybe in the eyes of people, but not the Lord. If only we could see people the way God sees us.
God is simply not impressed with us – not with our academic degrees or our pedigrees, not with our wealth, fame or power. A Christian’s value comes from the Cross…period! (Acts 10:34-35)
Jesus, himself, lived an upside-down, counter-cultural life. The God who created the heavens and the earth was born in a lowly manner – in a stable with dirty animals and manure. There were no proper (worldly) birth announcements in his honor. His parent’s engagement didn’t make the society section of the newspapers. He owned nothing and had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20); no deed to a home or anything else that would cause others to envy him.
It’s not that God is against homeownership or attaining a quality education. The problem is not that we have earthly treasures (although Jesus counsels us to not stockpile them – Matthew 6:19-21); the problem is when the earthly treasures have us – when they have our hearts – and when we start measuring our worth, and the worth of others, according to the attainment of such things, or the lack thereof.
For some Christians, wealth and/or status may be a part of God’s plan for their life; but it’s not that way for everyone; actually, it’s not that way for most. In fact, some Christians will have to surrender their wealth, their ambitions, their comfortable lifestyle, and even their very life for the sake of the cross. Having or not having is not the issue; counting the cost of discipleship and being faithful to call that God has for your life is the issue.
Satan knows what we crave and knows how to speak our language; so he offers us exactly what most of us want: To Have It All! To be rich, superior to others and powerful. He took Jesus up to a high point to have him behold all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, to offer it all to him (Matthew 4: 1-11). Today, he’s still offering us all the pseudo glitz and glam this world has to offer – those very things that turn our heart away from God; and truthfully, many of us are selling out for practically pennies on the dollar.
I wrestled with this very kind of thinking when I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I knew that there was no glory in staying home and wiping up spills and snotty noses all day. There was also no money in it. Actually, it involved a pay cut; but I felt the peace of God about it.
There were very few people who affirmed my decision: my husband, a couple of Christian radio personalities, as well as a handful of people I worshiped with. The overwhelming opinion was that I should be working to provide a “better” life for my family. Some wondered why I was wasting my college education. And people weren’t shy about giving their opinion.
No, it’s not always easy seeing my friends climb corporate ladders when the only thing I’m climbing is up a wall! Or how about the fact that they are becoming masters of their industry, while the only thing I’m mastering is . . . umm . . . meatloaf?
I’m speaking in jest here, but I think you get my point. I didn’t write this post to extol the virtues of the stay-at-home mom. My point is to express that living an upside-down, inside-out life for Christ is not easy, but it’s certainly worth it.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best – that is, being the best version of yourself. Why are we competing with other people anyway? In Christ we have no bragging rights! “Our life is hidden in Christ with God” (Colossians 3:3).
It’s OK to be ordinary. It’s OK to “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…” (1 Thessalonians 4:11a).
I’m thinking it takes extraordinary restraint to lead an ordinary life?
I’d say being ordinary is the new extraordinary!
Here’s to living an extraordinarily, ordinary life!
Join the conversation: Is it OK to be ordinary, or am I just a crazy, unmotivated loser? Post a comment below to share!
I shared this article at these amazing faith and family linkups.