Toward an Extraordinary Ordinary

It was leaf raking day at the Clem house. We had the boys, rakes, and bags ready to go. But then I couldn’t put the bag onto the trash container. It just wouldn’t stretch enough, or so I thought. Lindsay saw that I was having a difficult time, came right over, unleashed her superpowers and stretched the bag onto the container. Feeling like an idiot, I said, “I thought it wouldn’t fit, but now I see that it does.”

The next three bags were easy to put on. All it took was me knowing in my head that they actually fit. What I once thought impossible was easily doable.

A trash bag stretching to fit a container is relatively unimportant, but have you ever noticed that once humans know something is possible, it becomes much easier for everyone to do.

Our lives are filled with so many things that were once extraordinary that have now become ordinary. Things once thought impossible are now routinely done. We pick up a phone in the middle of nowhere and talk to others. We can print paper in the convenience of our homes. We can turn on our televisions and watch moving pictures instantly streaming off the internet. We live in a time where we experience an ordinary life that was once considered extraordinary.

At this time, I would like to take a little break and define my terms to avoid any confusion. When I say ordinary, I don’t mean boring. Tacos are ordinary, and I don’t find them boring. I could eat them every meal and be happy. Ordinary is commonplace, usual, or normal. This should not be confused with inferior or mediocre. We are surrounded by many great, ordinary things. When I say extraordinary, I mean exceptional or things that are beyond what we commonly experience.

Dr. Dionysius Lardner, who was a prominent scientist and economist in the early 1800s, is famous for being wrong. He couldn't see the new ordinary. Once he argued, “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” Today, people will regularly travel at 268 mph on the Shanghai Maglev Train. There are no known reports of passengers dying of asphyxia. At that speed, if a similar high-speed rail were in place here, we would be able to get to Chicago from Ft. Wayne in around thirty-six minutes. Or for you Yankee fans, from Ft. Wayne to New York in two hours and twenty-four minutes. 268 mph is a speed that is way beyond what Dr. Lardner thought would kill humans is now routinely in use every day in China. The extraordinary has become ordinary.

Wilbur Wright, in a speech to the Aero Club in France on November 5, 1908, said, “I confess that in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years.” Two years later, the two Wright brothers were flying their first airplane at Kitty Hawk. The extraordinary has become ordinary.

All around us, what was once thought extraordinary has now become ordinary.

Unfortunately, spiritually speaking, the extraordinary has not become ordinary. Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13 ESV). Yet we languish as if there is no way we can live a selfless life following Jesus here on earth. We subsist, enslaved to the same old sins that others have overcome. We spiritually endure life without experiencing the power of God.

Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian, wrote a parable entitled Tame Geese: A Revivalistic Meditation. It is the story of a community of talking geese who would gather together on Sundays for their religious services. “The essential content of the sermon was: what a lofty destiny the geese had, what a high goal the Creator (and every time this word was mentioned the geese curtsied and the ganders bowed the head) had set before the geese; by the aid of wings they could fly away to distant regions, blessed climes, where properly they were at home, for here they were only strangers.” The geese were made to fly, yet after hearing the goose-changing message, the geese would all get out of their seats and waddle home. Kierkegaard concluded the story with the phrase, “Man also has wings, he has an imagination.” Yet we continue to waddle.

All we have to do is look around and we can see extraordinary people living in ways that are completely ordinary to them. Then there are people who experience God in extraordinary ways. Then there is Jesus.

The extraordinary can become ordinary. We just have to know it is possible. What do you need to believe is possible? In Jesus, all things are possible. Believe.