“May you live in interesting times” is an apocryphal saying. It’s usually said to someone as a curse.
We certainly live in interesting times right now.
It’s as if 2020 has limitless tricks up its sleeve. We keep moving from one crisis to the next. And as soon as we are convinced nothing else can shock us, the killer bees buzz onto the headlines.
It makes me yearn to be bored. I don’t often ask for boredom, to be honest with you, but I’d take a giant swig of it right now if it would quench my thirst for normal.
Times like these remind you and me to be careful what we wish for, don’t they? We may think we want excitement only to find out we want something entirely different. I know I’d take a mundane couple of months strung together without any killer-anything headlines, that’s for sure.
We do this in our spiritual lives, too. We seek the incredible prayer encounter with Jesus, the tear-streaked-cheeks during worship on Sunday, the clear voice calling us to effective mission work. I know I’d love for my wife and me to hear AT THE SAME TIME a deep baritone voice from on high (wherever that is) announce what restaurant we should go to on our date night. It’s a small prayer request, really.
But for large swaths of our lives, we aren’t cursed with interesting times; instead, we get ordinary.
Boring, monotonous, ordinary.
Could the reverse be true? Could “May you live in ordinary times” be a blessing instead of a curse? Perhaps.
When Jesus walked the earth He proclaimed the Kingdom of God was present. It was here and now. He proclaimed this stunning news to ordinary people living ordinary lives. But here’s the deal, the earth-shattering news of this new Kingdom Jesus was announcing wouldn’t have even beaten out the latest gossip headlines of the day about the Roman boy band, The New Kids on the Insula.
It’s not that this announcement of a new Kingdom wasn’t earth-shattering. It was to those that heard it. It was confusing, but stupendous news.
But Jesus buried the headline. He spiked the story.
You couldn’t find mention of it much except if you were following Jesus around and even many His followers had trouble believing it.
You see, in order to experience this Kingdom, you had to build a relationship with ordinary people who had embedded this extraordinary news into the fabric of their very lives. It wasn’t something you could merely read about in the Roman Times. You had to experience it for yourself by being taught (“discipled” is the churchy word) by those who had already received the Kingdom.
This extraordinary Kingdom came through strikingly ordinary means.
And this extraordinary Kingdom was revealed and received through quite ordinary people without much fanfare.
This gives me great pause personally. “Pause” being a polite way of saying that I’m grievously convicted because I don’t often think my ordinary life – and how I live it – matters much to the Kingdom of God.
Keeping It Real
You see, I often resist boredom and the more mundane and ordinary things of life. I much prefer the excitement and adulation of leading prayer retreats over and above the quiet and solitary work of personal prayer. I much prefer the comments I read, especially when positive, in response to blog posts I write over and above privately re-reading my private journal to glean why I’m such a wackadoodle who can’t seem to sit still long enough to hear God’s still and quiet voice.
And if it were up to me, I would have announced this Kingdom through a press release and a series of Kingdom Revelation Rallies complete with The New Kids on the Insula as the entertainment.
But Jesus came into the ordinary. And He didn’t have a boy band. And He didn’t really have many rallies. He just walked around with His disciples, mostly, and spoke of this at-hand Kingdom.
How About You?
When you consider your life, do you think of it as boring and ordinary? Do you pick up your smartphone so you won’t be bored through the 5 seconds the little Netflix circle spins while loading the next episode?
Do you think of yourself as a discipler or is your life too boring for that?
If Jesus brought the extraordinary Kingdom through ordinary people then, what would it look like to embrace the ordinary in your own life today? What sort of spiritual practices would make the most sense for you personally where you could sense this ever-near Kingdom in your everyday life?
You know, I’ve often found myself thinking of Jesus as some kind of inaccessible idea more than a person I can have a real relationship with. I often look and peer and strive to see Him in the big places of my life, usually trying to spot Him on the horizon of some future hill I am trying to climb.
Looking for the Kingdom on the Next Hill
I find myself often saying, “Jesus, I’m down in this valley, but I either want to go to the top of this hill right here on my left or to the top of that hill over there on my right. Which hill are you on? Just tell me and I’ll head that way”
Straining my eyes as best I can, no figure usually emerges for me to signal which direction I should tread. We all have hills we want to climb. These hills could be a choice between two job offers, whether or not to date someone, or even where to go on vacation.
The point I’m trying to make is that while I seem to always be looking to some future horizon for the silhouette of Jesus to guide me, He is always much closer in. That’s the way the Kingdom works. It’s the here and now. It’s close in and not far off. I often find myself looking for Jesus in my further out and imagined as more exciting places than in the nearby ordinary places of my life.
But, He IS with me in my “boring” morning prayer time.
I can also find Him as I choose to secretly turn the other cheek to someone who perhaps has hurt me in a way nobody knows about but me.
He can be found in my calendar and in my checkbook register. He’s with me in great prayer and worship experiences for sure, but the near-Kingdom can be found in the ordinary boredom of a pandemic as well.
The thing is when you start to look closer in, you’ll notice He isn’t as much of a silhouetted figure in the distance. He starts to appear more enfleshed, more accessible, and more real as we find Him embedded in the ordinary details of our everyday lives.
And here’s what I think is especially cool…
When Jesus gets enfleshed in the details of our ordinary lives, no matter how boring, other people can more easily see Him, too. Our lives just look different. And this extraordinary Kingdom starts to become more noticeable to those near to us.
Your ordinary life – and how you live it – matters.
This morning I used your blog for my quiet time. It’s funny how easy it is to get off track or forget or get out of sync. Not funny really, more surprising or confounding. Why is it so easy for Jesus to slip into the distance, to be the silhouette afar? At least in my mind.
You asked about what practices I might use to bring the Kingdom closer. I’m now reminded of something I used to do as a way of bringing Jesus close to me, something I haven’t done for almost a year. When I really wanted a close connection, or I really wanted God’s full attention (again, ideas in my own mind) or even just be still in His presence, I would imagine and act like They (the Trinity) were actually physically with me. As I would begin my quiet time and before praying, I would arrange three chairs in my office. I would go to the door and open it as if God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were waiting outside. I would verbally out loud invite them in to take a seat and imagine them to be physically with me. I would take my shoes off to recognize I was on sacred ground, and I would knee before the chairs to worship and pray, imaging the Trinity was sitting in my room. And then I tried to be open to what happened next.
That is one of the more tangible ways the Kingdom is close to me, and I am grateful to be reminded of that practice today.
Mike, this is such an amazing practice! I’m so glad you shared it. I love it! You describe an act that acknowledges the reality of God’s presence. Your physical arrangements point to the unseen God who is with you. I’m going to incorporate this into my own morning prayer time! Thanks for sharing!