Finding the Extra in the Ordinary

[This post was originally published on (in)courage in November 2015]

“How do you carry on, when you carry something that you’ll probably carry for life?”

In Africa, dawn is the color of birdsong and the day wakes brilliant. But this morning the memory of my friend’s question hangs heavy and dark in the half-light of the sunrise.

I carry her question quietly through an ordinary, blistering day. Late afternoon, we decide to hang the Christmas lights. I stand on an ordinary dining room chair to reach up with ordinary zip ties to fix strings of ordinary lights bought at our ordinary supermarket. We have ordinary windows that look out onto an ordinary street.

But something happens when we hang Christmas lights. Something extraordinary.

My boys catch the magic. They drip from the pool in wet shorts and climb the burglar bars to help keep the tension as I tighten the strings. The lights dance offbeat and we laugh cranberry cookie crumbs onto the kitchen table and a storm brews black. Spectacular thunder splits the sky wide. Clouds cool and crack — flash — rumble deep. And burst torrents. Our lights in the windows glisten through rain but are no match for this electric summer sky that pours a big, loud, extraordinary gospel.

And through the storm my friend’s desperate question keeps sounding — about how we carry on, carrying the tension. Because in one hand is the truth that we serve an extraordinary God. And in the other hand is the truth that we live ordinary lives.

Our extraordinary God is mighty to save, mighty to heal, mighty to restore and renew. Our ordinary lives are uncertain, unfair, difficult and sometimes devastating. How does the extra fit into the ordinary?

Our eldest son is visually impaired. Fact: God could heal him. Fact: God hasn’t healed him. Both are true. We live strung out by the tension.

And we all carry things, right? Things we may carry for life. Singleness, infertility, disease, trauma, or soul shrapnel sustained in the ordinary crazy.

And it’s possible that, earth-side, we’ll never even see why we carry what we carry. How do ordinary arms hold such heavy truth?

The storm breaks the tension of thick heat. I watch my boys, watching the lights. They’re mesmerised by the wonder of our small flickering in just this small corner of the planet. We’re declaring that this ordinary home is a place of extraordinary peace, because Christ is King. We’re declaring that we will celebrate, despite the darkness, the majesty of a King born low beneath stars He flung.

And I think how maybe we don’t have to carry the tension after all. Because in Christ, all things hold together. And in Him we live and move and have our being. So if we’re in Him, and He holds all things — then we don’t have to do the holding at all. He never promised us that He would make all the uneven things, even, in this lightning quick life. He promised us that the world would be a hard place to live, and He promised us that He had overcome it. Both are true. We rest in a beautiful tension.

So maybe I need to call my friend to tell her — and me, and you — that finding the extra in the ordinary and being extraordinary people who carry on despite carrying things we may carry for life is about what we do with the pain, confusion, fear, and disappointment of ordinary life — how we turn it into worship.

That’s what makes us extraordinary reflections of our extraordinary God.

And maybe, to find the extra in the ordinary this Christmas and always, we need to be brave enough to keep on stringing up the lights, not in spite of the tension but because of it. The tension, after all, is how we string up extraordinary beauty.


. . .

Have a wonderful week. I’m thinking, ‘Tis the season to be fearless. 

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