“More desirable than striving from the get-go to stand out, to be the best, to rise to the top of the pile, is living an ordinary, unspectacular, unremarkable life…and living it well.
More fulfilling than giving my all in the secret hopes that I might be recognized as deserving of praise, is giving my best in the simple, hidden,unremarkable tasks that fill my day-to-day life, trusting that it’s in the faithful and quiet doing of those tasks that Love is made flesh and the Reality of God is revealed….
More beautiful than longing to be acknowledged by the world around me as somehow remarkable in my living and doing and being is striving to love in simple, unspectacular, very ordinary, and even hidden ways….
There is Beauty in the Unremarkable!”
I wrote these words just last week, from the depths of my heart and soul….
And they continue to ring true to me.
But as I have continued to think (and be in conversation with friends and relatives!) about this whole “being unremarkable” thing, I have wanted to share on paper some follow-up thoughts. Should you care to continue this conversation with me, read on! 🙂
Most simply, in joyously proclaiming that “there is Beauty in the unremarkable” for myself and my life, I wasn’t joyously claiming “unremarkable-ness” in a way that would imply self-deprecation, insignificance, or somehow being less than or lacking in worth.
Certainly the part of Jesus’s life to which Nouwen alluded in his words (to which I referred in m previous post), “The largest part of Jesus’ life was…simple, unspectacular, [very ordinary, and] hidden….,” was not insignificant or inconsequential! Those years were, perhaps, quietly lived. There was nothing much about them, apparently, that was worth recording for all posterity. That season of Jesus’s life may very well have been downright unremarkable. But I have to believe that that part of his life, the unspectacular and ordinary part, the largest part of his life, contributed significantly to his becoming who he was, to his evolution from Jesus of Nazareth to Jesus the Christ…. It seems more and more clear to me–contrary to what I have believed for most of my life up to this point–that living a quiet, simple, ordinary, unremarkable life is in no way an indicator of insignificance, nor it is to be considered a source of shame or guilt!
Rather, I am realizing that I can find joy in claiming an “unremarkable-ness” that will allow me to not need to be better than…or more than…or in any way, shape, or form, somehow larger than life!
I have begun to understand that I can find joy in living an “unremarkable” life–a life that is filled on a day-to-day basis with common, everyday, perhaps even unacknowledged tasks.
I am coming to a deeper awareness that I might just find joy in accepting Nouwen’s challenge to live a life that is simple, unspectacular, ordinary, and hidden, a life that is, in other words, unremarkable.
I will definitely never become that teacher that I used to dream of being, who deeply touches and inspires each of her students, class after class, year after year….
I will probably never be that youth pastor that I imagined I might be, who inspires all the kids of the church to feed the hungry and befriend the lonely, who packs the church with those kids and their families and those kids’ friends and their friends’ families….
I may never be a pew-packing preacher or a best-selling author….
But I can live the life that I have been given, unspectacular and ordinary though it may be. I can live it well, rejoicing in its unremarkable-ness!
Rather than striving for a complicated, do-everything-for-everyone life, I can pursue simplicity, thus being freed to love those around me well.
Rather than needing to be somehow stand out and be deemed deserving of the world’s praise, I can rejoice in being ordinary…and in “just” being me!…, basking in God’s unending and fathomless Love for me in all of my ordinariness!
Rather than being consumed by my own desires to be seen as amazing and to lead a life that is judged to be impressive by those around me, I can find joy and meaning in a quiet existence, leading an unspectacular life, carrying out my daily tasks faithfully and with love, trusting that in the doing of those tasks, Love is made flesh and the Reality of God is revealed.
If I can do all of these things–if I can do any of these things!–I will joyously claim to be following Jesus in the living of a simple, unspectacular, ordinary, and hidden life. And in doing so, I will be freed.
Freed to be unremarkable.
Freed to be beautifully unremarkable.
Freed to be remarkably unremarkable!!
And so again I say…
Thanks be to God! 🙂