Tiffany Stein, in her blog on June 25, 2015, wrote about the pressure she felt looking around her at what all her friends were doing — writing books, launching blogs, receiving promotions, founding ministries — and being tempted to think “I’m not accomplishing anything.” I feel for her and for other women who are faithfully serving God in their own ordinary spheres of influence and not making a splash across the social media pages. Is it okay to be ordinary?
I am reading the book Dwell: Life with God for the World by Barry D. Jones. It’s about having a balance between personal spiritual growth and outreach to the needy world. In his book, Jones quotes a much-discussed blog post by Anthony Bradley criticizing the pressure put on young adults especially to be “amazing” and “extraordinary,” but applying to all of us. He writes:
“I continue to be amazed by the number of youth and young adults who are stressed and burnt out from the regular shaming and feelings of inadequacy if they happen to not be doing something unique and special. Today’s millennial generation is being fed the message that if they don’t do something extraordinary in this life they are wasting their gifts and potential. The sad result is that so many young adults feel ashamed if they ‘settle’ into ordinary jobs, get married early and start families…For too many millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about.”
The message being conveyed in the media (social, news, and print) is that it isn’t okay to be ordinary. This message seems to be “in your face” all the time. After all, how often do you receive invitations to like someone’s new Facebook business page or social action page or to pre-purchase a friend’s new book? I bet I get at least 3-5 of those every month. For several issues, our local community newspaper highlighted teens (one as young as 12!) that had started their own non-profits and were raising huge amounts of money to address specific social issues. How does that make the rest of their school friends feel who are just trying to navigate the jungle of teenage emotions and hoping to pass their high school courses this year?
And, what about young women? The day before I read that quote in Dwell, one of the young moms (late 20s-early 30s) in my Wednesday morning “Moms Together” group said almost the same thing. She just blurted out to the group that she was feeling like a failure because she wasn’t doing enough. She has two small boys. She has taken a break from her previous career to dedicate her time and energy to rear these precious children in a loving home in which they can learn how to love God well and hopefully grow up to be responsible adults. Yet, she hears the message that if you aren’t doing something “extraordinary in this life” you are wasting it. I felt for her. And, I assured her that her seemingly “ordinary” life right now was very valuable to God.
Is it okay to be ordinary? Is it okay to teach the Bible well to other women without being a published author? Is it okay to focus on serving your family well and not feel like you need to take care of the whole community, also? Is it okay to work hard at your job without aiming to be the CEO of the company? Is it okay to not have a career outside of home and family right now? Is it okay to be ordinary?
When Jesus commissioned His followers to go everywhere and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-19), that declaration wasn’t given specifically to ordained preachers, hired church staff, or missionary organizations. He gave that commission to ordinary, everyday women and men like you and I are. Some did extraordinary things and are written about in the book of Acts. Others just were “proclaiming the good news of the Word” wherever they went (Acts 8:4). They are unnamed. They were ordinary. They told about Jesus to their families, friends, and neighbors in the context of their ordinary, everyday lives.
That reminds me of a saying I heard years ago when I was a young Christian woman, “Bloom where you are planted.” Even an ordinary woman living an ordinary life can be a beautiful bloom in God’s garden when she is faithfully following Christ and willing to let Him live His life through her. She will hear Jesus saying to her what He said about Mary in Mark 14:8, “She did what she could.”
The God-Dependent Woman Bible Study (read online)
The God-Dependent Woman Bible Study (download pdf)