Living in Ordinary Time

"I'm so very, ordinary / Nothing special, on my own.
Oh I, have never / Walked on water.
And I have never / Calmed a storm."

So begins Nicole C. Mullen's inspirational song, "Call on Jesus." The reason that track comes to mind is because as I quickly head toward my 47th birthday I see how few of my youthful ambitions have come to fruition. No, I'm not dead yet, but the Fahrner genes are such that I am likely significantly past the half-way mark of my time here on earth.

I don't know about you, but growing up I really thought I could do anything I wanted to. (Isn't that what we still teach children…that they can be whatever they want to be?) For that matter, as a youngster I planned on securing the ultimate American job—President of the United States—even figuring out the earliest I could run based on the minimum age of 36. (I guess I should have given George W. Bush and Al Gore a run for their money in 2000…might have prevented a bunch of hanging chads.)

But I am not President, didn't become a lawyer (like that guy with the cool pipe lighter I wanted to emulate), didn't become a famous radio DJ, and never became an engineer.

Instead I am (as my Twitter profile says) "an average guy in a small town in New Hampshire." Not only that, I write this unemployed and watching bills eat-up what remains of my severance as I apply for jobs that are much more modest than my last position as Vice President of Operations (and still generally get no response).

Now, I am not trying to elicit your sympathy or pity…just laying the framework for the delta between the dreams of a young boy (and teenager) growing up in Canaan, New Hampshire and the state of a middle-aged man in Antrim.

Perhaps you have had similar thoughts? Have you reached milestones in your life that make you reflect on the aspirations that passed you by? It may be an exaggeration to say that everyone wants to be the "One" (like Neo in "The Matrix"), but history is littered with people who wanted (but failed) to be the next Top Model, a scientist who would cure a debilitating disease, a Hollywood star, the leader of the free world, a world-record setting quarterback, a multi-billionaire, and so on.

The vast majority of us are living in "Ordinary Time" (yes, I am appropriating that liturgical expression for a different use). We wake up each morning, have an ordinary breakfast, go to an ordinary job (or not), spend our free time doing ordinary activities, and sleep each night in a very ordinary location.

But looking at our lives this way ignores some pretty important facts. First, it is a miracle that we even exist. As a child I could send a chill up my spine asking myself the question, "If there is such thing as nothing, why do we exist?" Even the smartest scientist cannot explain "in the beginning"—instead they have to give pixie-dust assurances that given enough time, they can discover it.

Your very being isn't ordinary.

Second, your motives overshadow your achievements. Although He was speaking to not being anxious over where you'll get life's necessities, Jesus makes the importance of priorities clear in these succinct words:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33, English Standard Version).

Maybe God intends for you to be the next American Idol, or the rich person with a ministry to other wealthy people, the United Nations Secretary General, or some other extraordinary individual. However, your top goal should be to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"—even if that means you'll be a stay-home mom, a janitor, or unemployed.

You are called to pursue an objective that isn't ordinary.

Third, if you are a Christian, is your status really that ordinary?:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

And if that isn't enough:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:4-7).

Christian, your priesthood and adoption are far from ordinary.

Finally, let's wrap up with this final thought. No matter what your lot in life is, you should view it through these lenses:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).

Christian, you are not ordinary because the One who strengthens you, in common or exceptional circumstances, isn't ordinary.


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