The pursuit of the extraordinary is nothing new, but our generation seems to crave the pavement of our own astonishing roads more so than any before.
We’ve been taught to bleed for our passion. To give it all. It’s the American dream – the Millennial dream. That, in spite of the very average existence of our parents and grandparents, we can work hard, rise to the top and be a self-made phenomenon for the world to see. We can work less hours, play more and still be a total boss. We can have our cake and eat it, too. There is nothing we cannot do. Why? Because we are Millennials.
However, when we are honest with ourselves, we may admit that the bar we have collectively set is slightly out of reach. Though this metaphorical bar be unattainable, we shake ourselves from our slumber and firmly declare, “YOU ARE A MILLENNIAL. Now wake up and be awesome at something. The world is literally standing around waiting for you to be incredible.”
To us, even failure would be better than becoming ordinary. Because failure means that we at least tried. But ordinary? Even the notion of the tepid and apathetic word makes our stomachs churn. No parent praised their child for “achieving the ordinary.”
After all, isn’t most of our existence an effort to escape the ordinary? To be seen as anything but ordinary? Gold medals haven’t been won and Facebook wasn’t created by a bunch of people who settled for ordinary.
But…What if we’ve got it wrong? What if in all of our going, doing, becoming and consuming, we are in fact being consumed? What if in all of our conquering, we are being conquered? Is it possible that the stress and burden of striving is just not sustainable?
Maybe our loving Father knows something that we do not about how to manage and sustainably thrive in this world. Though his kingdom seems backwards to our insecure and fragile selves, could it be that there is, in fact, a better way?
If we are to be imitators of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), we must learn to welcome servitude – rather than our own extraordinary being – with joy. Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Christ “emptied himself.” He “took the form of a servant.” He could have come in the form of Mark Zuckerberg, in all of his virtual glory, or in the form of Michael Phelps, in all of his medallic decor. But he just didn’t. He came as a servant and emptied himself.
If the way to greatness is through becoming less (John 3:30), the way to life is through death (Philippians 1:21) and the narrow path is in fact the best for our feet (Matthew 7:13), then I am sad to say that obscurity and ordinary may just be the only way to true life. I am sad to say it because I know it’s true. Since it’s true, that means a complete unlearning and reprogramming of most of what we inherently understand to be true about how to become great people. It means letting go of an entire paradigm, choosing a different way and learning a different kind of greatness.
My favorite example of the blessedness of the ordinary is the story of the boy with the fish and the loaves, which is found in John 6. Jesus said to his disciples, “There is a boy here with two barley loaves and five fish.” At these words, the disciples went and got the boy, collecting the lunch that his mommy had packed for him. I am guessing this little boy, with his smelly fish and bread, didn’t think he had much. He probably didn’t feel very “extraordinary,” especially beside Jesus and his disciples.
But Jesus took his bread and fish. He gave thanks, and he multiplied it. With these very ordinary objects, the boy’s lunch became a miracle for a crowd of hungry bellies (and hearts) to feast upon. The miracle of this sweet story is not only the multiplication of the food. Looking deeper, it’s the beauty of what God can do with our average. The fact that our God can take our average, mundane, everyday, unoriginal, non-instagram-worthy moments and use them for his kingdom.
When what we have is given to the Lord, it doesn’t really matter what it is. When it is in his hands, and not ours, it can be multiplied and and used in truly extraordinary ways.
When we are striving, hustling, and lost in comparison, we must stop and look down. Look at what is already in our hands – and humbly offer it back up to the Lord. He can take our overwhelmingly ordinary and bless and multiply it.
The truth is, as believers, we live in a wonderful upside-down kingdom. Today, may your heart and mind be settled that you are enough for God to love and to use, just as you are.