Thursday, July 24, 2014

this ordinary adventure

I'm not the only one who has struggled with feeling ordinary. I suspect it's a common ailment of those of us in our late 20's and 30's who set out to change the world -- full of ideas and loaded with energy -- and woke up one morning 2 or 3 children later only to discover that we had, somewhere along the line, slipped into the very lifestyle we were determined to avoid -- an ordinary one.

I've been encouraged by fellow blogger and friend-of-a-friend Chrissy Jeske, who often reflects on this very phenomenon. In fact, she and her husband have written a whole book about it. After an action-packed decade post-college living in rural Nicaragua, China, and South Africa (chronicled in their first book), they did the unthinkable. They bought a house on 2 1/2 acres in Southern Wisconsin, put both of their kids in public school, and started in on the inevitable homeowners' to-do list. Meanwhile Chrissy began a PhD in cultural anthropology and her husband, Adam, got a desk job. Since their timing coincided nicely with ours, I enjoy reading Chrissy's blog posts. She and I often wrestle with similar questions, and she has managed to find adventure in ordinary life.

Adam writes, "When I despair at the long, slow ordinary adventure, I stop and remember . . . God has graciously built into us habits of noticing small amazing things every day, responding wholeheartedly and taking small steps for long-term effect, and that makes a difference." (This Ordinary Adventure, 192, emphasis mine) 
"Today, I can notice the little amazing things around me and I can respond. I can take steps and make plans that will grow almost imperceptibly. I can make some small decisions that will have big effects, like sticking tiny acorns in the earth. When I'm gray and wrinkly, if God grants me that grace, I'll enjoy watching the sun rise behind oaks rather than across an open field. I'll look back on my life and see how small decisions and tiny steps began some very big adventures. I hope to see the results of a life well-lived: my gray, wrinkly and smiling bride; two kids living well in the world; a church filled with people I've known for decades and people who've just come in; projects and ministries that we supported with our money and time; and friends who I got to see start on this ordinary adventure with Jesus. It's doubtful I'll see all of these slow-growing fruits from seeds planted now, but surely I'll see some of them.
"This is a terribly big deal, and it makes me tremble again. Am I really willing to consider everything -- my dreams, my plans, my education, my job, my free time, my money, my friendships, my marriage, my parenting, my house -- in light of God's amazing calling on my life that should still be affecting the world ten, twenty-five, even a hundred years from now? Will I do what is necessary to prepare the ground for a field of oaks that will drop their own acorns, seeding and reseeding in generations of resurrections? Do I have the foresight and the patience -- the faith -- to find the best acorns and stick them in the dirt?" (This Ordinary Adventure, 191-192, emphasis mine)

Planting acorns is neither glamorous nor exotic. It's terribly ordinary. But it's the first and most important step in a process that ensures the world is a different place 50 years from now. In our new house I've been harvesting cups of blueberries every day for weeks, thanks to the foresight of the previous owner, who was not here long enough to enjoy the fruit of her labor. I'd like to think that writing a dissertation (or parenting small children, or serving faithfully at church) is a lot like planting an acorn. Patient study is not a quick fix for the world's problems, but it cultivates long-term growth that will offer tangible benefits for future generations.

What are you planting today that your grandchildren can enjoy? Godly parents? Stronger churches? Shady forests? Great literature? It may feel ordinary, but your wise choices day after day can eventually change some small corner of the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment