There is something about a new year with its ambitious resolutions, exuberant plans, and fresh start folly that leaves me feeling flat instead of fiery. It just feels exhausting to think about all the bettering that becomes gospel at the start of a new year. Self-improvement that encompasses everything from eating and exercise to ordering priorities and organizing closets. Am I the only one who feels like a hero just for taking a shower?
And, sharing this feels like heresy. After all, wanting to improve any area of our lives is commendable. Mercy is nothing but a do-over and a fresh start, and I know that I am nothing without God’s great mercy. Therefore, who am I to diminish the pursuit of betterment that is so easy to cling to when so often life feels messy and ordinary? Besides reconciling that becoming a motivational writer is probably something I should leave out of my career aspirations; I realize how much more comfortable I am with ordinariness.
One of the things that strikes me about the life of Jesus is how plain it was, from his birth in a manger all the way to the crude suffering of his death alongside commoners and criminals. Yet, is there anyone more remarkable who has walked this earth? Is there anyone who has left a greater legacy? He was a king but never had a worthy crown. He could perform the miracles of a great showman yet chose to act with quiet humility and never for his own glory. He didn’t climb the ladder of success. He bent down and washed the feet of his disciples. He taught us that the ordinary may be plain but that doesn’t mean it isn’t purposeful.
Ordinariness is in the steadiness of unconditional love. It is in the confidence of our friendships. It’s in the loyalty of those we trust and the compassion that makes safe our vulnerabilities. Ordinary is the day to day – the sick, the dying, the sorrowful. So much of our love and service is in the most ordinary acts of domesticity or the thoughtful care we use to speak to others. Ordinary is the space in between the greatness of our dreams where all of our hard work vacillates between what feels like negligible increments of both failure and success.
Ordinary isn’t as high-minded as the pinnacle we imagine for ourselves and it is certainly not as fancy, but like Jesus, there is a quiet remarkableness to its persistence. It’s unexpected and so often unforgettable. It’s the thin grout lines that at a glance seem insignificant or easy to miss but whose strength binds together the colorful mosaic of our lives. There is great beauty in the ordinariness of our humanity: all at once broken while all the while becoming.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions and I like to think of every moment as a new beginning. Maybe not one that is meant for greatness but hopefully one that I can feel awe and gratitude for the grandeur of what is so easily mistaken for mundanity. Jesus’ life was filled with ordinary moments of love and sacrifice; embrace those ordinary moments in your own life. Maybe it won’t withstand the ambition of a resolution, yet with his grace it can bend and sway and wobble into the extraordinary.
I feel like a derelict pen pal who hasn’t written for a while. I had several speaking events in December and one last week — all of which make me feel grateful for our Christian community. And, other than that, I have been enjoying time with my family and the mundanity of ordinary life which somehow feels extra shiny to me lately.
While many people dive into a New Year, I like to dip my toe in the water, complain that it’s too cold, and towel off and read a book until all of the excitement calms down. At first, I felt guilty about this but then I thought of all of the gifts there are in the present without me diving into a new project or becoming better at anything. I guess this is what God has been teaching us all along. We are loved right now with this amazing unconditional love that isn’t concerned with our performance on the metaphorical high dive. (I have some serious PTSD about being pushed off of the literal high dive as a kid so I know Jesus wouldn’t subject me to that trauma again.) Anyway, I am happy you are here and I’m happy I’m here too. So, maybe it’s already a happy new year. ~ love, Lara