“Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.”- Tish Harrison Warren
I have had terrible writer’s block this week. Maybe writer’s block isn’t the right word. I have written plenty, but has all been terribly self-conscious, boring, and useless. DELETE DELETE DELETE.
I’m going to share one of the reasons I think this has happened. Bear with me here as I explain. Last week’s post struck a nerve with a lot of people, and I heard from you. I loved that, and appreciate it more than you know, because this blogging thing is really uncomfortable sometimes. Shooting my thoughts and musings on Scripture, God, and life out into cyberspace is a little like opening my (messy) closet for friends and strangers to come see all the skeevy old shoes I can’t throw away and the college t-shirt that is too holey to wear (but perfect for summertime sleeping). Literally dirty laundry. Blogging can be really personal, and so when I hear back from you that a post helped you in some way, it makes that exposure so worth it. Thank you for responding.
But now I have performance anxiety. Suddenly I have become conscious of my self in what I write, as if writing was some kind of performance. In my pride I want it to be “good,” or really, “better.” Whatever I send out has to be at least as helpful or more helpful than last week’s post.
You may not be a blogger, but I suspect you do this too. Ever sent invitations for a party, and then made yourself and your family utterly miserable in the planning and execution of it? Been assigned a presentation at work – quite an honor, actually – and then been unable to eat or sleep in the week prior? Asked to speak at church and found yourself acting more unholy than ever? Since when does every single thing we do have to be worthy of Pintrest or promotion? Whatever happened to being good – not great – just relaxing in a job well done?
Somehow our culture advances the notion that each one of us, and everything we do, needs to be outstanding, noteworthy, or remarkable to be excellent. Words like “regular,” “ordinary,” and “average,” have somehow become synonymous with “lame,” “boring,” and “stale.” We compete with each other and with ourselves as if everything we do has to be better in order to be worthwhile at all. We live as if our value hinges on being special.
The plain fact of the matter is each of one of us is special. Scripture tell us we are uniquely and wonderfully made, so significant to God that He numbers the hairs on our heads. We are His workmanship, the apple of His eye, His delight. If what gives a thing its worth is the price it will bring, remember the price that was paid for you was the life of Jesus Christ. Nothing you ever do or don’t do will ever enhance or diminish your worth in God’s eyes.
What can drive us to sin, I think, is the knowledge that everyone else is unique, too. And rather than celebrate each other as masterworks by an infinitely creative God, we strive to distinguish our originality from everyone else’s.
The drive to work hard, do well, and achieve new things was present in the garden with Eve, who ate the fruit so that she could become wiser. That drive to excel is not sinful at all, but Eve chose to pursue it in a sinful way. Her son Cain followed suit, killing his brother because God seemed to favor his brother’s efforts over his own. What happened in that family is a little glimpse of what can easily happen in our own if we are not careful. Every parent reaches adulthood and confronts his or her ordinariness, realizing that he or she will probably not cure cancer, walk on Mars, or facilitate world peace. But when our children are born, brimming with new possibilities or gifted with greater measures of talent than we have, it is easy to believe they will achieve a higher level of “special.” Often our drive for our kids consumes us more than our own ambition ever did.
In his book Ordinary, Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, Michael Horton writes that it is essential to realize the ordinary does not mean mediocre: “There are no shortcuts to excellence in any area of life, and it is a commitment to the ordinary that makes the difference.” (p.28, emphasis mine) In other words, persevering in doing the daily, mundane things “as unto the Lord and not to men” is exactly the example we can set for our children. And in some ways, it is harder to achieve than world peace.
Tish Warren Harrison writes about her desire to live in Africa or Mongolia as a “world-changer” for Jesus, and finding herself a mom with little kids in Texas instead:
But I’ve come to the point where I’m not sure anymore just what God counts as radical. And I suspect that for me, getting up and doing the dishes when I’m short on sleep and patience is far more costly and necessitates more of a revolution in my heart than some of the more outwardly risky ways I’ve lived in the past. And so this is what I need now: the courage to face an ordinary day — an afternoon with a colicky baby where I’m probably going to snap at my two-year old and get annoyed with my noisy neighbor — without despair, the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life, and the grace to know that even when I’ve done nothing that is powerful or bold or even interesting that the Lord notices me and is fond of me and that is enough. (emphasis mine)*
I don’t much want to be a “world-changer,” but I do want to write life-changing blog posts. That is embarrassing to admit, but there it is. I put pressure on myself to have something for you that is fresh, new, and insightful. I want each post to make you laugh, think, and above all be free the burdens that our sin and our society dump on weary shoulders. And as I write, God shows me what I have done: I have made the writing about me, not Him.
Let’s take this to heart; “A small life is still a meaningful life.” My life has meaning because God gave it to me. My children have value because Jesus died for them. And that, my friends, is the extra in our ordinary.