Finding Hope in the Ordinary
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
There are times when I look back on periods of my life and almost feel as though I’m watching a movie about someone else’s life. Was there a really a time when I was single, living in San Francisco, involved in a Bible study ministry located in the most dangerous part of town and street evangelism in the epicenter of the gay community, running six miles a day and regularly going up to the mountains for backpacking and snowboarding adventures, not to mention flying around the world to places like Cambodia, Israel, South Africa, and Australia? These days a major trip involves packing the minivan to visit the in-laws in Detroit, comforting my son after he’s puked all over me, and attempting the Sisyphean task of cleaning up the little (and ginormous) messes the kids leave around the house.
Fifteen years ago I’d take a break every day at 10am, walk down to the San Francisco pier, sit on a bench, and dive into Scripture and talk with God while I journaled, sometimes for a half hour or more. These days I feel lucky if I get 5 minutes alone to read a bit of the Word! Can you relate at all? There are times these days when my life feels so utterly ordinary, and for some reason that makes me feel guilty, like I know I should be doing more. The question is, more of what? With two young kids, a wife, and chronic pain I already feel completely worn out by my “ordinary” life!
What does God think about this - is it ok to have an “ordinary” life? I was so glad to find Sarena Ellens devotional from Proverbs 31 Ministries called “Finding Hope in the Ordinary.” Her doubts and fears about being too ordinary, and not having a testimony as a result, mirrored many of my own feelings. If you shared your life story with someone, could you imagine hearing a response like this:
“Well, maybe you didn’t feel like you had a story because yours is so … typical. Like, I wouldn’t want to have the cliché faith experience you had.”
Ouch! Yet for many who’ve grown up in the church and never had a prodigal son story to tell, I think this can be a real struggle. Now I feel like I straddle both sides of the fence; I do have a prodigal son story in my past, but in comparison the past decade has felt incredibly mundane and uneventful when it comes to the big “Wow God!” moments I used to experience on an almost daily basis in 2004 and 2005. However, there’s an important lesson we can easily miss when we’re comparing our lives to someone else’s. Ellens put it this way:
Ordinary living is not easy. It requires dedication and perseverance, and faithful obedience to God’s call. It requires a hope in the sometimes hard, everyday experience of following Jesus, because carrying a cross like that doesn’t always make for an exciting story.
She then quotes one of my favorite verses, Hebrews 10:23, where the Word of God says:
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
So no matter what our circumstances, our focus should be on Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith,” the one who gives us meaning and hope, no matter what our story happens to be at the moment. God is God of the dramatic and the mundane - and he can and does use both for his honor and glory! We never know who might be watching our “ordinary” lives - and just might see Jesus in the process.
Ellens concludes her message with these words of encouragement:
Every step in the right direction is a faithful step toward God, and it is good. No matter what the lies say, that’s a story worth sharing.