It’s an ambitious title for a post. I know.
And once you read it, you may think me shallow or self-centered.
But this fear has haunted me for half of my 35 years on this terrestrial ball that hangs in mid-air as if held in place by some magical force.
My greatest fear?
That I will do nothing to leave a mark on the world.
- I won’t write a book that changes the way people live their lives.
- I won’t preach sermons that God uses to launch a movement.
- I won’t shape a school in such a way that future generations are transformed for the better.
- I won’t start something that lasts and serves as a legacy.
In other words, I’ll be…ordinary.
Attempting to stuff that fear back into its proper place, I found myself reading through the Acts of the Apostles once again–in addition to my regularly scheduled Bible reading > because I’m so awesome.
There’s one verse in particular that I have an on again off again sort of relationship with. When I read this verse, I go “That’s my life verse!” and want to get it tattooed on my person flesh. But prior to reading it again a few weeks back, I’d mostly forgotten about it. This reading was different as well because, for the first time in a long time, I’m not a pastor. And I had always read this verse through that one, narrow, particular lens of a pastor.
This is the apostle Paul’s posture toward life and legacy
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20.24, ESV)
For years I interchanged ministry and pastorate. That is, preaching and shepherding and leading in a local congregation. As if the only ministry I, or anyone, could receive from the Lord was a church ministry proper.
This, of course, caused great anxiety for me vocationally speaking because my identity was tied up in the title, which meant where I worked and what I did at a church was the sum of who I was at a given moment, not to mention what I’d be in the future!
Now the title is gone. I’m ordinary (I know this was always the case, but I’m searching and sharing my soul, so play along).
Yet, even though I’m not working on a church staff, Acts 20.24 still speaks. The Spirit asks, “What ministry, then, have you received?”
Answer. Look around. Where has the Lord placed you for such a time as this? What comes with where you are?
Husband. Father. Friend. Educator. Administrator.
All titles that are overflowing with responsibility and expectation.
Moreover, if God cannot be confined to a building or an occupation or our hearts, then He’s everywhere. And if God is everywhere, then there is no such thing as ordinary, because where we go, there God is. There, in his presence, the ordinary is sanctified, set apart, made holy.
Changing the diaper. Playing in the pool. Greeting the attendant at WalMart (or Target if you’re fancy).
Dallas Willard writes in The Divine Conspiracy of the ordinary being the well-kept secret of spiritual living. He calls it a receptacle of the divine. Which as best I can tell means that the ordinary spaces and situations of life become sacred when we acknowledge the presence of God in whom we live and move and have our very being.
Isn’t this what Jesus did?
He worked an ordinary job in an ordinary town for a couple of decades before calling some ordinary guys to follow him and welcoming ordinary women to minister alongside him. His greatest spiritual teachings centered on ordinary items like bread, water, birds, grass, bushes, and fishing.
Jesus’ very incarnation puts this principle on display. The divine entered into the ordinary, and the world was changed forever.
A similar invitation is extended to us.
Acknowledge the presence of God in every moment. Welcome in the divine and watch as God takes ordinary to new heights.
Leaving a mark may mean some level of notoriety or fame. Not for most people. But, being fully present where you are and with whom you are? That will change your life. And it will change the lives of those around you in ways you will never know.