Friday, December 5, 2014

An ordinary life. . .

I drive behind cars whose bumper stickers proclaim that children in this family are on the honor roll and other such distinctions.  I have yet to follow a vehicle with a bumper sticker that says "My kid is a good kid."  We are relentless parents in the pursuit of our children's success.  We are helicopter parents hovering over them to make sure they do what we think is best and we go to bat for them against teachers and coaches who may not share our sterling view of their abilities.  All of this is well and good -- to a point.  But all this special attention to our special children raises unrealistic ideals about life and their place in it.  We ought to encourage our children always to their best but we must remember that even that best may not be good enough to allow them to achieve their dreams, stand out from the crowd, or achieve the notice and recognition of the masses.  Not every child is special.  Some, dare I say most, are spectacularly ordinary.  But that is great!

I live a thoroughly ordinary life.  I have no advanced degrees.  I possess no special measure of wisdom or intellect.  I do not look like a model.  I have bad eyes.  I am rather ordinary.  And, some keep reminding me, I am getting old.  But I am okay with that.  I have long ago discarded the notion that I am here to save the church or the world.  I hope merely to remembered as one who was found faithful in his life as husband, father, son, and pastor.

We do ourselves and our children a disservice to suggest to them that they all must be stars.  Wars are won not by great generals but by faithful troops who bear the wounds and who suffer all, even death, for the sake of victory.  We remember the generals but it was the grunt in the foxhole, tank, etc... who was the real hero.  We all know the names of the movies stars, politicians, and pop singers but so often their notoriety is from failure as much as success.  Some of them are one hit wonders who were lauded like the best thing since sliced bread only to disappear in a breath.  The real stars are moms and dads who love each other and their children, workers who do an honest day's labor usually for less than an honest day's wage, neighbors who help neighbors, and the solid citizens who vote, pay taxes, and generally obey most of the laws.  They are not special but ordinary and yet in their ordinary lives they shine.

We put way too much pressure on ourselves and our children to be extraordinarily happy, successful, and famous.  It spoils their joy in the little things that make life grand and noble.  God does not expect us to be superstars but merely good and faithful husbands, wives, parents, children, neighbors, citizens, and, yes, church goers.  Let us not forget that.  The folks who sit in the pew week after week, who take to heart and pray for the names on the prayer list, who bring the extra dish to the pot luck, who make sure their kids do their catechism work, who watch the calendar for the times when they acolyte, usher, do altar guild, etc.... these are the heroic figures through which God's glory shines and He does His best work.  Thanks be to God for all of you.

We often pray for a peaceable and quiet life.  Not one in the news -- but quiet, peaceable, and ordinary.  That is where most of us fit, where God does His work in, among, and through us, and where we show forth the extraordinary grace of God.  Let's hear it for all those who are nothing but ordinary.  For in that ordinary life is spectacular grace, mercy, blessing, and faith.  Do your best -- always.  Confess your sins -- faithfully.  Receive the Sacrament -- as often as it is offered.  Work hard -- every day.  Love without fear of giving or sacrificing -- here is where fearless people really live.  Read the Scriptures -- for comfort, instruction, wisdom, and guidance.  Tell and show others the love of Christ -- that you have known.  Be there -- for your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, and your neighbors. 

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. . .” (1 Thess 4:11)


Anonymous said...

Very nice... and Thank You, this ordinary person need to hear this!

John Joseph Flanagan said...

I also think "bragger" bumper stickers, apart from ones which show affiliation with causes (I,e. Pro-life, Pro-team sports, military , etc, even "I love my Schnauzer" are fine, but the ones that say your child is a genius at Twin Peaks Elementary are too vain. Once I saw one that read, "My child beat up your honor roll student," One of the funniest bumper sticker in my view was: " Caution- I drive worse than you do." I am against bragging to extreme, and do not care for stickers which could incite problems, like ..."I support the ACLU." How about. " Obama/Biden.." Bumper stickers make a statement, and I do like one I saw last Christmas: " Jesus is the reason for the Season."