Saturday, March 17, 2012
What I really want to do is something ordinary.
When I was in film school at NYU, just about everyone, when asked “what is your career goal?” answered “I want to direct.” No one would ever say “I want to bring the props back to the studio at 2am” or “I want to help the sound man by carrying his equipment” or “I want to fetch coffee for the producer.” Those were “ordinary” jobs. Aspiring to direct was a much loftier, much more satisfying goal. How vastly different is the upside down
. Kingdom of God
We live in an age of celebrity and pleasure seeking. Even for we followers of the All Time Hero, there is a temptation to elevate the things that scripture would refer to as a hill of beans (well, maybe in The Message translation anyway), and to overlook the really astonishing, regular (yes those 2 words can go together) stuff that is at the heart of true discipleship. You already know the story:
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get your self ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
When we have done everything we were told to do….
Here are just a few of the things ALL followers of Jesus are told to do:
Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Love neighbor as self.
Pick up our cross and follow.
Forgive, and then bless our enemies.
Be willing to leave all, forsake all, suffer all for His sake.
Do without earthly security.
Trust the One we cannot see.
Know, without a doubt, that we are totally, relentlessly, zealously loved by our Father.
Pray like there’s no tomorrow (because there might not be).
Find joy in God in every little minute of every little day.
And so on, and so on. The ordinary Christian life is supposed to look like this. The Holy Spirit enables even the weakest among us to live this way. But our limited, worldly perspective makes us recoil from these other-oriented goals. We want to hold fast to comfort, security and acclaim. We strive for what so temporarily satisfies. Living a dull, sub-ordinary life, God’s very own miss out on the vast eternal pleasures of His presence in exchange for what amounts to 10 minutes of cheap, passing gratification. We laud those who make a big noise and live in big houses and are all pomp and glitter. We act like this is our party, and not God’s, to which we have graciously been invited.
Lest you think I’m saying don’t be all you can be, I’m not. Our earth bound vocation is a part of God’s workings in our brief sojourn here. What I’m saying, mostly to myself, is that our eternal calling is really far richer, and much greater than striving for some worldly attainment. By simply doing our duty, humbly accepting whatever the hand of a Loving God brings, with thanksgiving and without complaint, by looking outside ourselves we find the lives we’ve lost. Turns out the ordinary isn’t the norm for the church at all. Nobody puts it like Brother CS Lewis:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The ordinary Christian, if we could but find one, would only be doing his duty. Only serving the Awesome God, only receiving grace upon grace, only overflowing with love and mercy, only suffering all manner of trouble with endurance and hope, only showing the face of Jesus to a lost, corrupted, needy, dying world, only caring for the least of these, only doing what the Great One told him to do.
The stunning thing is this: Jesus took the servant role to show us the way. He is God, and He prepared our supper and looked after our fields and washed our filthy feet. The furthest Person from ordinary proved that ordinary isn’t ordinary at all. Makes me want to bend these knees and repent. It would be the ordinary thing to do.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,
PS: I am broken, and so are you. We can only live this way in the midst of our brokenness so long as we stay close to Jesus and let Him heal and help and forgive us every hour, every day. Don’t think I don’t get it that living the true life of a disciple is messy business. Really messy. I write this with longing in my heart to fulfill it. Not because I’ve figured it out. With a limp, pressing against the sub-ordinary, I continue up the pilgrim road, by His grace.