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Friday, March 28, 2008

Ordinary

This week, I had the privilege of sitting down and talking with a very wise, very humble, very experienced older gentleman. Our conversation primarily revolved around some issues and thought processes that I have been having trouble overcoming. During the course of our conversation we began to discuss the original design of man, the fall of man and the subsequent result of the fall on man and man's new found ordinariness.

It seems that we live in a society where the ordinary is despised and the extraordinary is to be sought after at all cost. Let’s face it; no one wants to watch an ordinary guy like me play basketball. Instead we prefer to watch King James as he glides through the air and forcefully slams the ball through the hoop to finish off a mammoth dunk. At the same time, when was the last time you turned on your television on a Sunday afternoon to watch a bunch of cigar smoking, beer drinking guys play a round of 18 holes, hitting rooftops, slicing balls into backyard swimming pools and then hollering like children when they accidentally sink a chip shot for a bogey from 27 feet? No. We turn on our TV’s to watch Tiger Woods eagle a par 4…on purpose. Why? Because he is extraordinary and we like it. The truth is, there is nothing wrong with these guys being extraordinary (in this one area of their life) nor is there anything wrong with us liking these guys. The problem though, is when we begin to believe that being ordinary is to be less than.

This happens to all of us. But particularly for those who choose to be Christ followers in their lives…the idea of being ordinary is more or less…unacceptable. Somehow, along the way through our Christian lives, we have gathered (or been taught) that to be a Christian we must become holy, righteous, like Jesus Himself.

This week, as I spoke with this dear man, he said in a passing statement, “You know Brian; this idea of becoming like Jesus is one of the most fallacious statements that I have ever heard. What a disservice we do to people to tell them that they should become like Jesus.” He continued, by saying, “The best we can do in this ordinary, fleshly body of ours is to invite Jesus in, that He may live His life through us; that He may be holy and righteous; that He may be Jesus, in us.” As human beings, as flesh and blood, we are as ordinary as they come. No amount of prayer, fasting, solitude, silence, worship or any other disciplines can make us less ordinary or more holy. All of these things are good and necessary, but apart from the experience of Jesus Christ’s life giving power and Spirit living through us, they are just exercises in will power which will more than likely leave us exhausted, lonely and hungry.

This week I realized (again) that my being ordinary is just the way Jesus wants it. For if I had the ability to become holy or righteous or like Jesus on my own, then why would I need Him? The truth is, I do need Him and when He shows up and He lives through me…all of those around experience the extraordinary life of Jesus Christ.

In the words of one of the most ordinary Christians in all of history, the ordinary Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”

3 comments:

Chad (Captain) Estes said...

I really like this, Brian. Thanks for the great food for though. It reminds me of some of what I am reading of Bonhoeffer right now.

"To forego self-conceit and to associate with the lowly means, in all soberness and without mincing the matter, to consider oneself the greatest of sinners. This arouses all the resistance of the natural man, but also that of the self-confident Christian. It sounds like an exaggeration, like an untruth. Yet even Paul said of himself that he was the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15); he said this specifically at the point where he was speaking of his service as an apostle. There can be no genuine acknowledgment of sin that does not lead to this extremity. If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all. My sin is of necessity the worst, the most grievous, the most reprehensible. Brotherly love will find any number of extenuations for the sins of others; only for my sin is there no apology whatsoever. Therefore my sin is the worst. He would would serve his brother in the fellowship must sink all the way down to these depths of humility."

Crispin Schroeder said...

Good Stuff. I am reminded of a quote I read by
Fenelon recently:

The Seeking Heart – Die Daily by Fenelon
“Learn to see yourself as you are, and accept your
weakness until it pleases God to heal you.”

Chad (Captain) Estes said...

ah, Fenelon. I like him a lot. Good stuff.

Someone sent me this devotion of Henri Nouwen's today. It has a nice twist to this conversation as well.

.................................._

Being Humble and Confident

As we look at the stars and let our minds wander into the
many galaxies, we come to feel so small and insignificant
that anything we do, say, or think seems completely useless.
But if we look into our souls and let our minds wander
into the endless galaxies of our interior lives, we become
so tall and significant that everything we do, say, or think
appears of great importance.

We have to keep looking both ways to remain humble and
confident, humorous and serious, playful and responsible.
Yes, the human person is very small and very tall. It is
the tension between the two that keeps us spiritually awake.