In praise of the ordinary
The Christian life is not necessarily exciting, and that's okay
From two fellow Anglican clergymen of my acquaintance, with commentary by yours truly:
“Preachers like to suggest that the Christian life is radical and exciting. But often it’s just ordinary. [However,] there’s nothing wrong with ordinary. Ordinary is beautiful. What if just once a preacher said, ‘come and follow Jesus. It’s ordinary?’ Would that turn people away? Maybe but I think it’s more true.
“I know a man who came to follow Jesus because he wanted his life to change. He found that his life was pretty much the same as it was before and now he has no time for Jesus because the trip to the mountains is more exciting. The Christian life isn’t about excitement. It isn’t about changing the world. It’s about following Jesus in the ordinary and that's okay.”
“The beauty of Anglicanism, and I am preaching to the quire, is that God takes the ordinary and mundane things: water, bread, and wine and makes them extraordinary, blessed, and special. Tangible ways to convey invisible graces. One may add the following, if so inclined, to the aforementioned items (depending on personal piety and churchmanship): oil, incense, knotted rope, beads, icons. My Christian life has not been exciting but I do appreciate the peace and regularity of our liturgy. I know what to expect, mostly, and am not caught by surprises.”
Amen, to both of these two reverend gentlemen, and their comments!
To which I would add that excitement ain’t always what it’s cracked up to be. There’s a reason for the old saying (perhaps apocryphally referred to as an “ancient Chinese curse”) which goes, “may you live in interesting times.” We live in “interesting” times today! Many of us would give a lot for them to be a good deal less interesting: for us to return to aspects, at least (maybe without the looming threat of nuclear armageddon – which appears, sadly, to be returning), of what we grew up with as “ordinary” life.
What would that ordinary life look like?
It would be a life in which, among other things, people knew what sex they were: the one they were biologically and genetically born as; in which the slaughter of millions of unborn babies was not referred to as “women’s health care,” or “my body my choice” (it is neither: though it may be living there temporarily, from the moment of conception a human fetus is a genetically and physiologically distinct organism; and calling the elective ending of a human life “health care” is an egregious abuse of language, logic, and ethics); a life in which sexual perversions are not seen as a matter of “Pride”; in which marriage was the norm, understood to be life-long, and having among its ends the procreation of children; in which – here in the United States – the Constitution was observed, our institutions, history, and culture are honored, and our rights and liberties are upheld; and a life in which the Christian faith was known, respected, and practiced by the majority of the population… and at least honoured, if only in the breach, by the rest.
That would not be exciting, by the secular world’s standards of excitement; it would, indeed, be quite ordinary – but it would be a very great blessing: and one earnestly to be desired, and fervently to be prayed for, in my opinion.
And in fact, it is absolutely true that for most of us, most of the time, the Christian life is not necessarily any more exciting than the secular life; it may (depending on one’s definition of “exciting”) be even less so. But what life in Christ does do, is that it takes the ordinary (such as the examples given above, of perfectly ordinary things such as water, bread, wine, and the physical accoutrements of personal devotional practices; or of things like family and child-rearing) and makes them extraordinary.
Why? Because it allows and invites us to look at them in the light of eternity.
Even the most ordinary things in life are mediated through – and the gift of – Him who, although God, became Man, and lived and died as one of us, though without sin; who died, in fact, upon the hard wood of the Cross for our sins, and rose again for our salvation, thus conquering sin and death, and enabling us to become by grace what He is by nature; and who will come again at the end of time to make all things new, and to usher in the full manifestation of His eternal and heavenly Kingdom.
And that – when you think about it enough, and deeply enough – really is exciting!