Back in the 90's singer Paula Cole (best known for her hit "I Don't Want Wait," which was also the theme song for the TV series Dawson's Creek) had a song entitled "I Am So Ordinary" in which she laments that, unlike her ex's new girlfriend, she is so boring and ordinary. I think most of us balk at the notion of being ordinary and we live in a culture that exalts the extraordinary. Like Thom Yorke longingly sings in the song "Creep," that, "I wish I was special." Both songs are about being forgotten and going unnoticed by someone they love, whether a past relationship or an unspoken unrequited love. Yet how many of us resonate with that fear of being merely ordinary?
As I have been reading my way through the gospels, what struck me was a realization that I have missed before in all of my forty-eight years and all of my previous readings: for most of his life on this earth, Jesus lived in obscurity. Think about that. That is an astounding concept to grasp if you really do take the time to consider it. The God in flesh lived out an ordinary life on the one of the lowest rungs of society at that time. A carpenter (or tekton in Greek) was not what we picture as a carpenter. They did woodworking: making doors, chests, or even yokes. They owned no land, which is a large part of what gave someone status in that time and that culture. This was the low end of the peasant class. And yet that is exactly where he chose to be. It really is a marvel.
For thirty years, Jesus worked as a carpenter. He slept and awakened with bedhead and bad breath. While he labored, he sweated and probably smelled. He toiled and labored at a job most undervalued and looked down on. The God who created all things chose to live this kind of life. That made me think: What does that tell us about how sacred the ordinariness of our own lives really are?
How much of our faith is built on the ministry and the miracles, but not the commonplace that came with incarnation?
As a boy, did Jesus ever develop a crush on a girl? Did he suffer a broken heart? I'm sure he skinned his knees while running and playing, and he cried because it hurt. His mother would have had to comfort him no matter if it was a skinned knee or broken heart. I loved how the late Rich Mullins pondered these ideas in his song "Boy Like Me / Man Like You." It is a sweet song that most people would think of only in terms of that, but forget the profundity of what Mullins was truly pondering.
Many would claim that the period after Jesus' birth, with the exception of being a twelve year old boy in the temple, did not matter because the gospel writers did not cover it in any of their books of the New Testament. I would disagree with that assessment. I think it would be a mistake to neglect to consider that huge part of Jesus' earthly life because what it shows us is how important our daily lives really are. Jesus spent thirty years living an ordinary existence. Only three years in ministry and drawing the attention of his culture. Most of us would view that as ineffective use of his time.
Because we like to skip over the boring parts of life. We want it to be like in the movies or television with all of the action and none of the routine. Even our "reality" shows bear little resemblance to reality. None have those quotidian moments where we do mundane things like brush our teeth, make our beds, commute to work, help our kids with homework, or folding laundry) and, yet, most of Jesus' life on earth was spent doing the "boring" stuff, the daily acts of ordinary living.
Shouldn't we then grasp how God is telling us that it is in exactly those circumstances that He most often can be found?
Raising your kids.
Working at a job.
These are all holy.
Even in his ministry, Jesus was most effective in the dailiness of acts such as sharing a meal with someone or just in listening to them.
It was the years of ordinariness that Christ learned what it was to truly be human, to gain understanding of the rhythms of our daily lives. And this was all part of the divine will and plan of God.
Even his preaching was filled with images of the ordinary: birds of the air, flowers in the field, vineyards, mustard seeds, yokes, bread, and wine. The kingdom was always being compared to the commonplace in his parables and teachings. With Jesus, there was no division between the sacred and the secular as they were both intertwined for a purpose: the glory of God.
We were all created Imago Dei (in the image of God), but then God became man. Word became flesh. That should tell us how much God values us and our ordinary, daily lives. We cannot isolate Jesus the messiah from Jesus the man. If we are uncomfortable with God in human skin it's because we are too often uncomfortable in our own.
That's why I am asking you to stop, and ponder the ordinariness of Christ's life so that you can see how yours is also a divine gift. These daily moments we have are all consecrated by God that we might use them to magnify Him in all that we do. It's not about having a platform or performance on some grand stage, but it's about being a father or mother or friend or neighbor or employee or boss or student in a way that is intentional and aware that God is present in all of it. In the late night feedings with a newborn. In cleaning a bathroom. In working a dead-end job where you often go unappreciated. In teaching a class full of students. Wherever and in whatever you are doing or going or being, that is exactly where God is and where He wants you to be. So now I ask myself: If the ordinary was good enough for the Creator of the universe, why should it be any less for me?
So whenever you are struggling with your daily struggles (laundry, bills, overworked, dealing with kids) just know that your ordinary life matters on an eternal scale. The ordinary has infinite worth. What you're doing matters - that's why Jesus did it for most of his earthly life.