The Wonder of the Ordinary
There is a blessed simplicity to the Christian life, an aspect that is rarely talked about these days I am afraid. When I engage people regarding Christianity and we have discussions over lunch or coffee and I ask them “What does Christianity look like?”, the answers always seem to run along the same vein, that Christianity is defined by a certain ethic, a specific obedience to certain regulations or going to church and reading your bible. Now, I would be in grave error to say that Christianity doesn’t encompass those things, because Christians do subscribe to a Biblical code of ethics and morality and we most assuredly hold the Bible and the fellowship with the faithful as something incredibly important. But Christianity is much deeper than external obedience and religious duty. In fact, it is much deeper than what is now being trumpeted, especially within modern Evangelicalism, as “radical Christianity”. Radical not in the sense of possessing an extreme form of ideology, rather radical in its expression. Let me explain further, radical Christianity is equivalent to selling your house, selling your car, quitting your job and going to the deepest reaches of the jungle to help the indigenous peoples. But even in that extraordinary display there is still the conundrum of what to do about the ordinary. By way of practical experience, many of us will not have the opportunity to go to Africa nor be called to sell our house, and all our possessions to go out in the world and do something that is beyond remarkable. Our day consists of mainly the ordinary: getting up, doing our daily work, and then coming to rest at the end. Now in our modern tendency to become restless, unhappy in what we perceive to be mundane, what I just described to you seems hardly glamorous. The ordinary life seems rather stifling, a hindrance to truly finding joy and satisfaction. Moving further into spirituality, the ordinary seems to be an indication of a lack of the real presence of God. Yet when we turn to Scripture, we see that Apostle Paul urges the believers in Thessalonica, “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (1 Thess. 4:11). There is great value in seeking the ordinary life, because the ordinary is the majority of our experience. So because is it the lion’s share of our experiences, to aspire to live quietly means to acknowledge the presence of God in the everyday. If we have communion with God by way of trusting the Gospel, then God doesn’t only meet us in the astonishing circumstances of life, but also in the run-of-the-mill. To experience God’s presence in the ordinary is encouraging because it points to the simplicity of relationship. Again, for many in the Church today, that simplicity is lost. They seem to think that God is out there somewhere, when in fact He has been near to them the whole time. God’s presence is not hindered by spatial limitations nor is He to be found in a specific location on the map. The beauty of Christianity is that God’s presence can be felt in and through every situation. I can experience the real presence of God while sitting in my office at Evergreen Baptist Church answering emails and I can feel that very same level of intimacy when on mission in the jungles of the Amazon. As David said in Psalm 139:7 “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” and the answer is “nowhere”. God does meet us in every circumstance, including in the mundane. Perhaps we should spend less time chasing after the experience of feeling God’s presence and just settle down to enjoy God’s ever present nearness in the ordinary times of life.