21 Jun The Test Of Ordinary Living
Humans tend to discount the mundane, and feel bored easily with the same old people, activities, lifestyle, jobs, house, material possessions, etc. That’s why we always look forward to special events and holidays. During holidays, everyone is in a good and happy mood, those moments are simply blissful. Yet, when we get back to normal routine life, things become bland again. It is the same thing for dating and marriage. During the initial phase of dating, things are sweet, romantic, fresh, interesting. You get to enjoy the loving attention of someone else, and it is exciting to get to know a new person. But those special moments slowly turn dull when one gets into ordinary marital living. There are only so much special things a couple can do, special places we can go, special gifts we can give, and when all have been done and tried, it’s back to the ordinary simple life again.
When we look at the transfiguration event, the disciples were utterly amazed at the extraordinary happening and Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” <Mt 17:4> After being with Jesus for a while, the disciples had been used to seeing miracles and wonders performed by Jesus. It is understandable why the disciples would like to remain in the extraordinary. Yet, Jesus brought them down the mountain after the special encounter. And at the bottom of the mountain, they would face spiritual warfare when they met a demon-possessed boy and his father pleading for help. Yes, we would all like to stay on top of the mountain and remain in a constant state of euphoria. Yet, God has called us to walk with Him in the ordinary, as He has given us roles and duties to fulfil in our ordinary living too.
In fact, ordinariness is a test.
Recently, my husband and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary. We cannot go out to celebrate nor can we do anything very special, because of COVID-19 restrictions. Yet, such “ordinariness” is a test of how rooted our relationship is. And the test is not just one day of wedding anniversary, but the entire pandemic period, where life in general reverts to a normal, simple one with nothing fanciful. Furthermore, me and my husband are also childless, so we do not have the extra “excitement or freshness” which children can introduce to a marriage. Yet, that is a further test of how strong our relationship is. Do we need fancy stuff all the time to sustain our love and interest in each other? Even if there are no additional perks from special celebrations or children, can our relationship still survive?
The same goes for our relationship with God. Ordinariness exposes how much we truly value God and is content with Him alone. It is easy to feel high and connected to God, when He showers us with special gifts, answered prayers, and delightful pleasures of life. I guess we all have had our moments of feeling extremely touched by God and feeling so much closer to Him than ever before. But what if there are no fancy things in our walk with God? What if there are no “extra perks”? Do we need anything extra to liven up our relationship with God, or God Himself suffices? Can we be satisfied with just “Him” alone? Will we get bored if it is always about Him? The truth is, no special miracle or wonder can offer us the same degree of joy our God Himself can give us.
The contempt for the ordinary springs from discontentment.
A heart of discontentment makes people treat with contempt all things common and familiar. That is why people are drawn to novelty and new thrills. Actually, we humans are strange creatures, when a crisis comes our way, we hope desperately that life can quickly go back to “normal”. Yet, when life really becomes normal and mundane, we get bored and go after something new and exciting. Normal life or not, we just cannot be satisfied. This can be seen in the example of the Israelites. When there was no food and meat in the wilderness, they complained. Yet, when God sent them food in a supernatural way, they were amazed for a brief moment, but soon, when the food was the always the same, it became ordinary, and they started to complain again.
We need to realise, however, that no matter how much “special things” can perk us up, that euphoria will fade eventually. We have all experienced it in one way or another; no matter how delighted we are, the happiness after getting good grades, a romantic wedding, a birthday celebration, a successful event, the arrival of a newborn, etc, will soon slip into an ordinary feeling again. Yet, people who are humble will be content to live an ordinary life by walking with God. Contented people can find joy in the ordinary by giving thanks to God for the little things in life, things easily taken for granted – our living breath, our salvation, God’s love, our families and friends, our church, our jobs, our daily bread, etc.
The extraordinary God is also present in the ordinary.
Our problem is we tend to underrate God’s presence in the ordinary life.
Now, our Lord Jesus is the Word who became flesh to come into the ordinary world. He had moved from the extraordinary into the ordinary realm. So, we can certainly meet Him in the ordinary. In fact, the “ordinary” things we see in the world are also sustained by God’s great power – the rising and setting of the sun, the changing of the seasons at their appointed time, our waking up every day, etc. Even in our ordinary lives, God is still at work. Jesus had said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” <John 5:17> Not only is God at work, but He also bears our burdens every day. <Psalm 68:19> Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. With God leading our lives, each day and hour is unique because it comes with His presence, His plan and good purpose.
Seek and involve Him in our ordinary living.
Some Christians have the idea that spiritual and holy activities refer only to some great mission work, special evangelistic activities, and other clearly Christian stuff. Thus, they feel that their normal daily lives have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. However, when we infuse a “Christian intentionality” into our ordinary living, ordinary days can be glorious as well. That is to say that we have to intentionally centre our ordinary living on God and His Kingdom. Thus, we actively seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in making every decision, in using our time and resources, in interacting with people, and even in simply performing our daily routine tasks. This is part of taking up our cross and following Jesus, as He commanded, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” <Luke 9:23> Following Jesus is not simply a one-time decision, but we are told to follow Jesus daily. Since we are no longer masters of our own lives, even in ordinary affairs, we should consult our Lord with a heart prepared for obedience. From there, we will gain wisdom from God to handle our daily affairs, and be able to see how our ordinary living is linked to God’s glorious purpose. For example, while eating and sleeping seem like normal activities, Christians eat and rest to gain strength to do God’s will; we go through common life problems to deepen our relationship with Him, accumulate testimonies, and store up eternal rewards; we raise children to become young disciples of God; we make friends in the hope of sharing the gospel with them. Thus, ordinary days can be glorious too.
Dear brothers and sisters, we often take the ordinary for granted and our hearts easily get bored of God when things seem bland and mundane. The truth is, our ordinary days are not so ordinary, because the extraordinary God continues to do the important works of sustaining our lives, providing for our needs, keeping us from the devil’s attacks, sanctifying us and building our faith. There is also divine grace and joys in the ordinary, pray that God helps us to discover them as we walk with Him in our ordinary days.