An Ordinary Life
A friend posted this video to Facebook today and it really resonated with me.
Growing up in Evangelicalism in my adolescence and young adulthood, we were exhorted to "do great things for God" and to live lives of "significance". Living an ordinary life was seen as a failure. As we developed our life plans, we were to see how we could use our career and/or our hobbies/avocation to share our faith with others. (Sadly, caring for the poor, pursuing justice, and other such explicit commands of Jesus took a far second place in our calculations.)
These were the years that I was training to be a physician. I was going to live a "big life" for God. I was going to be taking care of people's physical needs, but I'd also be in a position to refer them for spiritual care. And, after all, Jesus himself is called The Great Physician. I was set. I was following Jesus.
But, then life intervened. Which means that God intervened, if I'm a Christian and believe that nothing happens without God's knowledge. (I have gone back and forth with God about this. His answers tend to start with something like "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations" Job 38:4) My episodic migraine devolved into chronic migraine and I had to quit working as a physician in 2006. And there went my identity. After all, I was a physician for Jesus!! I may have been working in a small town, but I was living a life that Jesus would have been proud of, right? Who knows? Looking back, there was a certain amount of pride going on, I'm sorry to say.
In the first few years after quitting medicine, I spent a lot of time lamenting and questioning God about my identity. I got back into the Gospels and noticed that Jesus' spent most of his time telling us to love each other, care for the poor and down trodden, and pursue justice. All of these can be done in a variety of contexts.
I then moved on to Paul's letters. I had always used Paul as an example of giving up everything to follow Jesus. But, when I read Paul again, I noticed that he didn't tell everyone else to become a missionary. In fact, his letters to the churches were telling people how to live their lives at home while serving God. Philippians chapter 4 became one of my go-to sections of the Bible for learning contentment. Paul talked about learning to be content whether he had plenty or whether he had little. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul even says, "and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you." Nobody ever mentioned that verse when I was growing up and learning that I needed to live a "big life" for Jesus.
In the last few years, I've come to terms with chronic migraine disease. There's no cure at the moment, and my treatments aren't succesful enough to let me go back to work yet (although I'm hopeful!). My life is ordinary. I've been raising kids and taking care of my husband while taking care of my body.
I've learned and grown in my faith, though. Jesus has taught me that I don't need an extraordinary life. I need a life filled with love. Micah 6:8 tells us "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." And Jesus gave us the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:37-38, "Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"
God has let me see that it's perfectly fine to live an ordinary life, a small life. In fact, we are all made in God's image, so I'm not really living a small life if I'm loving the people with whom I come in contact. I'm living the life God has given me.
Jesus is love. When we love Jesus, we can more fully love others. And that's the whole point of our existence - to love others. My life may look ordinary, but if I'm loving other people, I'm following Jesus' command and living the life he gave me. And I'm learning to be content with my ordinary life.