Over morning coffee, I mention to a mentor of mine that I’ve lost sight of the magnificent wood because of all the very ordinary trees and that I’ve started shutting down and shutting up in the face of the bigger, more interesting lives lived by pretty much everyone else.
She talks to me about when Paul gets caught up to the third heaven. He sees mind-bending, reality-shattering things.
God says, Don’t tell anyone what you saw.
Right after that, Paul asks God to take away the thorn in his flesh. Since, you know, he’s Paul. The guy who got to see all that third heaven stuff.
God says, No. My grace is enough for you.
The thorn was God’s grace.
It’s the thing that kept Paul’s feet on the ground the rest of his earthly life. It kept him humble when he may have felt entitled to brag a little at dinner parties, on account of being, you know, Paul.
She tells me that God is showing me that kind of grace too.
‘Your ordinary life is a hedge of protection,’ she says. ‘In His kindness, God is using all the ordinary to safeguard you from pride, because pride is the thing that will take you out.’
Suddenly, I’m seeing hedges of protection all over.
I know a social entrepreneur who engages with economists, politicians, movers and shakers. He’s part of shaping what’s possibly the most important conversation in our country. He’s also a stay-at-home dad who cooks, methodically moves sprinklers across the lawn and rides bikes with his little girls. Behind that hedge of ordinary, he humbly goes right on changing the world.
I know a researcher widely respected in her field. She also juggles special needs parenting with house payments and desperation. Behind that hedge of ordinary, she humbly keeps on doing the next right extraordinary thing.
I know a medical practitioner who is doing fresh and astounding work in paediatrics. He also maintains a tirelessly gentle bedside manner for a stream of in-and-out-all-day regular patients. Behind that hedge of ordinary, he humbly breaks new ground.
I know an engineer who flies around this planet for the World Health Organization, raising standards for pharmaceutical production. He also patiently – painstakingly – allows his grandsons to follow him around the garage, to make and fix and help. Behind that hedge of ordinary, he humbly continues to be a voice for civilization’s advancement.
So when it rains and the tumble dryer breaks and the school uniforms are wet and we’ve run out of coffee and tomato sauce – when the small, ordinary stuff grows tangled and hedgy, obscuring the big, extraordinary stuff like changing the world – maybe we need to pause long enough to notice, as Emily Dickinson suggested, that the ordinary hedge is really a burning bush.
Maybe we should feel a little thrilled and take off our shoes because it’s on the humble, holy ground of our ordinary lives that the Father changes us, and through us, the world.
. . .
How are you doing in the midst of the ordinary? You’re so welcome to share this post or leave a comment and encourage someone with your burning bush story.
Love and strength for the week!
(Post inspired by Pam Ferreira.)