Most of my life I’ve been bombarded with the idea that God uses people with specialized skills, experiences, gifting’s, talents, titles, etc. The religious landscape is permeated with many super gifted people and every imaginable title. It almost seems like religion is for the super gifted with normal ordinary people being spectators. Books and sermons with titles such as ten keys to an exceptional life, ten steps to living your dream, ten ways to financial freedom, etc, have become trigger points for the search to live out the purpose driven life as one noted author writes which only the super gifted can achieve.
Within the Charismatic Movement (a movement within the church) we have a saying that goes like this: when the “natural” meets the “super”, the natural becomes supernatural. When the “ordinary” meets “extra”, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The result of this teaching is this – we chase after the “super” or “extra” so that we can become extraordinary or supernatural. The chase is usually after the anointing, the miraculous, the supernatural, the glory, the shekinah, the mystical, etc. The emphasis shifts from just being common and ordinary. After all who wants to be ordinary? Duh…
Recently, a friend of mine told me that he thinks God has called him to do this “big thing”. He told me God had a master plan for his life and he needed to find out the plan before it was too late. Heard of FOMO? (Fear Of Missing Out) this guy has huge doses of it. I have known him for a number of years now and I’ve noticed that he does not live in the present. His life is on hold until he fulfills his purpose and reaches his destiny. He changes girlfriends like t-shirts because he doesn’t know when he will be off to fulfill his purpose. He can’t keep a job or isn’t interested because he knows when the right time comes he will just up and leave at moment’s notice. As I write this post, he has latched onto a girlfriend that he thinks will lead him to fulfill his purpose and destiny. This kind of thinking has left him waiting or looking out for the magnificent, the big dream, the big destiny, something out there.
By the way, I was like that a few years back. Jenny will tell you the vetting process she went through before I married her. I had tonnes of questions that I asked her before I married her. I took her through the “big” interview. Why? She had to be the perfect fit for my purpose and destiny. She was coming into my life to enable me live this big dream of mine. I had prepared so thoroughly for my destiny that nothing was supposed to hinder or alter it.
I know that I pursued theological education and ministry training in order to fulfill my purpose and reach my destiny. I did that so that I could be “fit” for the ministry. Schulter, were your wrong in pursuing these things? I wasn’t until my pursuit made me weird. I just couldn’t fit in life. I couldn’t do normal things. I couldn’t hold normal conversations. I had to be the smart one. I had to be the spiritual one. I was bored with normal conversations about life. I wanted substance in my conversations. I didn’t have time to waste. I was on a mission. Weirdoooooooo….
ordinary people chosen and loved
For the past few years I have observed in scripture and in real life how grace works and who it works with/for. In scripture, grace works with common, ordinary people such as widows, orphans, prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen, shepherds, farmers, sheep herders, house helps, prison warders, soldiers, beggars, men, women and children and the list goes on and on.
The nation of Israel was a nation of ordinary people. There was nothing peculiar about them. Really? Yes. Check this out.
For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
They were chosen simply because God loved them. This same thread follows through into the New Covenant. God chose us because he loved us. That is profound in and of itself. You were chosen before the foundations of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)You did not have any part or choice in the choosing. You couldn’t refuse or reject you being the choice. God chose you. Wow
You did not have any part or choice in the choosing. You couldn’t refuse or reject you being the choice. God chose you. Wow
Secondly, God chose you because he loved you. (Ephesians 1:4) The God of the universe loves you. He really does. He is fond of you. He proved his love for you by dying for you – a cruel death. This God didn’t die for you because you were extraordinary and super gifted. He died for the ordinary you.
Jesus so ordinary
Jesus was born in very ordinary circumstances to very ordinary parents in a very ordinary country. There was nothing special about him. Jesus was as ordinary as ordinary can be. If he needed to fulfill his mission as the savior of the world then he had to come as one of us (incarnation). He had to be human.
Every time they tried to make him extraordinary he would quiet them down or leave the city and go someplace else. Jesus was notorious for wanting anonymity.
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest is an interesting read. Judas the betrayer went and kissed Jesus and only then were they able to identify Jesus. This is strange in so many levels. At this point in his life, Jesus was known far and wide. C’mon. Do you mean if they didn’t have the “sign” then they would have missed the person they were sent to arrest? Also, could it be that Jesus was so ordinary they needed someone who knew him well to single him out? This fact could suffice.
Jesus was an ordinary man.
Paul and his “extras”
Recently, I had a conversation with one of my brothers and he is into leadership. Man, he hopes to help churches set up structures and systems that would help them function more effectively. He has this idea that churches function more effectively if they adopt corporate structures and systems. I remember as we talked I just kept on thinking that many people who leave the corporate world to join the ministry usually go through what Paul describes in Philippians 2:4-9
Though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Paul was no ordinary man. He was qualified and well able. He was super gifted. He had the “extra” on him. But grace invaded his life on the road to Damascus and later he reaches this conclusion – I count all “extras” as loss and rubbish. That is astonishing. Literally, Paul became ordinary.
A friend of mine recently got a new job. It’s a good job. For years she had been praying for new opportunities to be able to do much more with her gifts and skill set. She handed in her resignation letter, quit her job, and shortly later got this new job. Recently, I met up with her and she told me about the job and I was like wow. That’s so good. It has its challenges just like any normal job has. However, as the conversation went on, she mentioned that she believed that God opened the job for her to train her and prepare her for her next level. So I asked what the level was. She went like I think God is training her through the challenges she was experiencing at work as preparation for even greater things. My response was not that spiritual. I said to her, “Girl, didn’t God just give you this job to bless you so that you can be a blessing to your husband and kids? Didn’t God open a door for you so that you can just do normal things? Normal things like taking your kids to good schools, putting food on the table, clothing your family, paying your taxes, creating employment for your house-help, buy a good car, further your education, go on holiday, exercise, etc”. My response wasn’t all that “spiritual” for her. I was getting her to understand that grace works in the ordinariness of life.
Grace works for and with ordinary men, husbands, wives, mum’s , dad’s, uncles, aunties, grandpa’s and grandma’s, employees, employers, taxpayers, housewives, cleaners, municipal workers, government workers, petrol attendants, house-helps, policemen and women, soldiers, truck drivers, building contractors, dance instructors, estate agents, graphic designers, security guards, gym instructors, food servers, accountants, street vendors, taxi drivers, bank tellers, cashiers at the supermarket, car guards at the mall, local football coach, farmer, gardener, karaoke singers, school teachers, bar tenders, doctors, lawyers, lecturers, students, chauffeurs, community leaders, builders, factory workers, nurses, librarians, just every day common people.
ordinary is the new weird
We have made ordinary look weird. Ordinary is the new weird. We have been taught to expect to live this fabulous fantastic life. We have been taught that there is a purpose and destiny waiting for you to fulfill. No wonder we have too many people living with regrets and anger or anxious and restless.
Regrets and anger? Older people look back at their lives and see what they could have achieved or done. Then they sense huge doses of guilt and condemnation because they didn’t seize the moments.
Anxious and restless? Younger people look at their lives and see how they are leaving below their potential, purpose and destinies and become restless and anxious. No wonder our generation is not consistent and constant in anything. We change jobs, spouses, friends, countries, homes, churches etc. trying to live out our full potential and fulfilling our destinies.
Grace is present in the ordinariness of life.
Through the lens of grace I have begun seeing how grace plays out in day-to-day life. I have had to unsubscribe from that thinking that insists there is something huge or big out there for us to do. That thinking is elusive and only the very elite few can achieve it. Good for them. The good news is this – we normal everyday people can still enjoy God’s grace. Grace is indiscriminate. Grace is available to everyone. Grace is everywhere as Eugene Peterson says.
Grace is everywhere as Eugene Peterson says
Grace is not just for the spiritual person whose heart is set for the missions field. Or the evangelist who’s set a target of winning souls for Jesus. Or the worship team leader getting ready to lead the church in worship. Or the preacher getting ready for the next preach. Or the youth leader leading a group of teenagers to youth camp this weekend. Grace is not only for the spiritual. Grace is for the non-spiritual. Grace is available to non-spiritual vocations.
The good thing also is this – we normal every day people can still enjoy God’s grace. Grace is indiscriminate. Grace is available to everyone.
The free nature of grace makes grace available to everyone. This is the reason why it is available in vast unimaginable quantities so that everyone can receive and enjoy. Grace is actually much more available than the water we drink, the air we breath or the dirt we walk on.
I believe most people would live and enjoy their lives more if they embraced the idea that they are just ordinary. I believe that in the midst of the rush in the twenty-first century ordinary people actually slow down, feel the breeze, laugh, dance, play, exercise, cook, eat, make love and rest.
I think ordinary people are the most effective reflectors of grace.
I am ordinary. I am normal. I am common.
That’s what grace looks like