december 11

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The gift of ordinary

I want to be extraordinary… there I said it.

As hard as it is for me to admit that, there is something deep down inside of me, and I think all of us, to be special, to stand out, to be “extraordinary.”

But what really makes a person extra-ordinary? What makes a person different, what makes them stand out in a crowd? We spend most of our lives doing as much as we can to fit in, go with the flow, and live to a standard that is acceptable to the people around us. That standard tends to be set by the “extraordinary” people in our world right? The star athletes, the up and coming movie stars, and those in charge of deciding what is, “in style,” right now. We are supposed to fit in, but also maintain an element of originality that sets us apart. If you are just ordinary that is safe, but boring, but if you are too different, that could be even worse, too much originality could lead to over all rejection.

This tug and pull is a constant battle for everyone who lives life on this earth. Some choose to give up trying to fit in and just simply find themselves embracing the fringes. Some give all they have to the pursuit of getting the combination exactly right. Others, most of us, simply resign ourselves to the reality we will always be ordinary. Lost in a sea of faces, nameless, faceless and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Accepting our role as ordinary people really begins and ends in understanding what we were created for.

Ultimately I have found the pursuit Of being extraordinary exhausting, frustrating and deflating. I find myself looking around and deciding if I am better than enough other people to feel good about who I am. I end up judging others, playing games with myself, and ultimately still end up disappointed with the reality that I am just not that special.

Bottom line, being ordinary just might be the greatest gift we have ever been given.

During this advent season, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I am taking a bit of risk in saying this, but Mary’s extraordinary role in the story of history was dependent on her acceptance of the God-given role of ordinary.

Mary is a person who has historically been seen by so many as extraordinary. We want her to be different, special, holy and Godly. As human beings we have even stretched that desire for her to be extraordinary to the point of making her into some kind of super human. We know she is not god… right? But we want her to be something more don’t we?

To see Mary as extraordinary in her own right is to miss the point of her life altogether.

In Luke chapter 1, Mary’s simple, meaningless, obscure, young life is bombarded by the creator of the universe with a call to live out something ordinary. Why did God choose her? Why did God decide she was the right one to be the mother of Jesus? Because she was special? Because she was popular, rich and well-liked?

Its because she was ordinary.

Mary was insecure, full of fear, doubt and worry. She was young, unmarried and just plain regular.

What was extraordinary about Mary wasn’t her position in life, her staggering talent or her earthly wealth. It was about her humility, faith and choice to surrender.

When the angel of the lord comes to Mary and tells her the great news about her new role in the landscape of history the angel calls her, “favored one.” Meaning she had found favor with God, meaning, God decided to use her even though she was nobody. The New Living Translation of the Bible actually replaces the word grace, with favor. Because of God’s graciousness he chose to use a broken vessel like Mary to be the mother of His son Jesus. It wasn’t her resume or rap sheet, it was by God’s grace, and favor. God chose her because she was humble, not because she was extraordinary.

In Luke chapter one, Mary responds to the angel of the Lord saying,

 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “ The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

Do you see it?

Why did God use her? Because she was willing to let the power of the most high “over-shadow her.” She was willing to become less… to become used up, beaten and worn out. She saw her life as worthless in compared to the amazing opportunity to be part of God’s plan in this unique way. She didn’t say, wait a minute, this doesn’t work out with my life, she just submitted to the work God wanted to do in her life.

Do you want to live an extraordinary life? Then, like Mary, you have to be willing to embrace the ordinary so that God gets the glory, you have to be ready to have every aspect of your life taken away, folded into the character of God. You must simply be over shadowed. As long as you and I strive to stand out, be special, take hold of our own lives and be extraordinary, we will simply never be in contention for God’s work. He will simply pass us by for someone a little more ordinary and a lot more humble.

I wonder at times if Mary, who gave her life, was ridiculed no doubt for obeying God, in the name of humility, would be grossly disappointed by what we have made her legacy into.

Today, choose humility, choose to be over-shadowed, choose to give instead of receive.

Choose ORDINARY, and God will make your life into something Extraordinary.

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