“The ordinary self is the extraordinary self.” —Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child
A few months ago, a friend asked what my greatest fear in life was.
Without hesitation, I uttered the one word I had run from my entire life, the one word that scared the living daylights out of me, the one word that fueled all my other fears and was the primary reason why I worked so hard in life and ministry. Heights, spiders, drowning and flying were a distant second to the one fear that paralysed me—the fear of being ordinary.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve run as fast as possible from anyone or anything that bore the stigma of ordinary. In high school and college, I didn’t want to hang out with ordinary people, be an ordinary student, date ordinary girls, get an ordinary degree, and move to an ordinary city where I would get an ordinary job. I didn’t want to have an ordinary house or drive an ordinary car. I didn’t want to drink ordinary coffee or eat ordinary food. And most of all, I didn’t want to be on staff at an ordinary church and settle for an ordinary job in ministry.
Like most Millennials, I have been told my entire life that I am special and important—that I was extraordinary. I have been constantly affirmed as one-of-a-kind and unique. To not live as one noteworthy and noticed would be to waste my life. So, I tried hard and worked harder to never be or do anything common, standard, typical, or God forbid, ordinary. I was born to leave my mark and be the best at something in the world. To give up this pursuit and fade into the meaningless abyss of “average” was simply not an option.
Therefore, I scratched and clawed and overextended myself in ministry, motivated not by personal conviction, but by the fear of not being "somebody." To be in ministry and not be noticed was to be a nobody. Retweets and mentions, comments and “likes,” attendance and downloads became the storefront window by which I percieved my importance.
After the suffocating pursuit to be extraordinary choked out my life, I decided that ordinary would be a nice change–assuming I was ever extraordinary to begin with! Truth is, I’ve probably always been painfully ordinary and was just too prideful to realize it. I’ve probably always been really average and just thought way too highly of myself. What if God never expected me to be extraordinary? What if I am unique, exceptional, noteworthy and noticed not because of my achievements or the praise of others, but because I’m ordinary—just plain ol me? What if God is fully pleased with me when I’m myself as opposed to when I’m trying to be somebody? What if God gets more glory out of my simple presence in life than my performance in it? What if God doesn’t give a rip about men’s praise of me as opposed to His praise of me as His beloved?
Throughout the Scriptures, God takes ordinary things and does extraordinary things with them. However, they are still ordinary—just used in an extraordinary way by an extraordinary God. Things like water, mud and spit are used by God to create, heal and transform. These elements are as ordinary as they come until they encounter a God who assigns with extraordinary value. In the same way, we will never know how extraordinary we are until we embrace how extravagantly we are loved—just plain ol ordinary us. Brennan Manning writes, “the impostor draws identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, but the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life.”
When you embrace ordinary, you have nothing to prove. When you embrace ordinary, you can breathe deeper. When you embrace ordinary, there is a HUGE weight lifted off your back. When you embrace ordinary, you become normal—and normal is awesome, try it! When you embrace ordinary, you allow an extraordinary God to speak an extraordinary truth over you—that you are extravagantly loved—plain ol ordinary you.
And that makes you extraordinary.