Monday, August 10, 2015

The Beauty of Ordinary

My friend Kim taught me the beauty of an ordinary day even before she was diagnosed with the cervical cancer that would take her life.  She was my best friend when we lived in Philadelphia, and was anything but ordinary herself.  She was valedictorian of every class of which she was a member.  She could have been a concert pianist, but was a successful physician of internal medicine, an athlete who loved to bike and cross-country ski, a woman overflowing with biblical wisdom, having come to faith in Jesus Christ in her twenties.

Somehow in the course of one of our conversations she mentioned the beauty of an ordinary day. An ordinary day was one in which you woke up feeling well, spent time with the Lord praying and reading His Word, went to work, completed the usual tasks at home, enjoyed a good meal, spent time with family or friends, then retired for the day to do it all again tomorrow. Such a day is not boring, mundane, to be disdained. It is precious and rare.

We think of such days as ordinary when actually they are anything but. Most days are interrupted by the extraordinary—things that may be wonderful, such as an unexpected visit from a friend far away.  But more often they are interrupted by the difficult or traumatic. Ordinary days vanish when we wake up with a virus that puts us back in bed; when a child gets sick in the middle of the night; when we get the pink slip at work; when the test result comes back positive; when our spouse walks out; when our teenager doesn’t come home; when our elderly parent takes another fall…

We think of ordinary days as those in which we can go about our regular lives in our usual way, or in the way we’d like to go about them. The car starts; the computer works; the day is free of crises. But do I appreciate those days as the rare and precious gifts that they are? 

On a recent girl trip, one of the group asked the rest of us, “If you had two or three days to live over again—not to change them, but just to experience them—which ones would you choose?” We asked her the same question, and she said that one of hers would be any ordinary day when she was a child at home with her parents, the kind when you fall asleep in the car on the way home at night knowing that you’ll wake up in the morning in your bed because your daddy will have carried you in. Another she chose would be an ordinary day when her husband was alive and her children were school-age, perhaps on one of their regular hunting trips when they would gather around the campfire outside the trailer on the hunting lease, tell stories, eat s’mores, and laugh until they cried.

What we think of as regular or ordinary days actually occur very seldom.  Most days do include relationship conflicts, something breaking, health problems, or other difficulties. Our spheres may include community unrest, state financial crises, threats to our national security, or international military conflict.

Yet, even in the midst of such things, we can appreciate the ordinary moments. My friend Kim taught me that as well. When her cancer weakened her to the point she knew she could never cross-country ski again, she took a day to grieve her loss in a healthy way, and then she moved on, living to the full the life that remained. 

She was able to handle her cancer in this way because of what she had made a regular part of her ordinary days for many years: that daily time with the Lord in prayer and in His Word. Because of that, she knew not only that God is sovereign but that He is good, and that everything that comes to us—even bad things, because we live in a broken world--comes through His loving hands for our ultimate good and for His glory.

What God has put into this day is His gift to me, no matter what it is or how “ordinary” it may seem. May I really taste my food, breathe deeply, hug often, work hard, give thanks. May I appreciate it all, as the writer of Ecclesiastes expressed it:

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (2:24-25 ESV)

No comments:

Post a Comment