Monday, 12 March 2012

the mission called ordinary life

After two years of missionary living, I almost can't imagine finding something worth writing about in my "ordinary" life. My only experience of posting to a blog has revolved entirely around the extraordinary experience of moving temporarily across the globe. But one thing I've learned as a missionary in an exotic land is that the heart of life is just the ordinary days - the grind. I thought the overseas experience would be an enchanted intermission from normalcy - a thrilling adventure of meaningful work and unfamiliar vistas. I could not have been more wrong. A few days after arriving, ordinary life was just ordinary life again, even halfway across the world. The kitchen floor needed to be mopped. Diapers had to be changed. Children had tantrums; I felt cranky; it rained for weeks. Most days were not glamourous. Most days were the same as they had been back in Pennsylvania, except in an uglier living room. The mission work also felt very ordinary. Human nature is what it is. We worked with troubled individuals and eccentric characters and liars and those desperate for attention - and mostly lots and lots of lovely people. Just the same as we had in every other job or ministry throughout our whole lives.

A few years ago at this time, I was trying to prepare to be a missionary in country I'd never seen before. Now I'm trying to prepare to go back to a life I know very well, but to live it in a whole new way. For me, the call is no longer to do something unusual and dramatic; my call now is to do what is quite ordinary - but with extraordinary zeal and charity, with excellence and sacrifice and cheerfulness - in other words, to embrace the mission of ordinary life with such a generous heart so as to yield thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. I think this was supposed to be my call all along. Only by living temporarily as a "real" missionary did I learn that I had been a "real" missionary all along - I'd simply failed to recognize it. We are all missionaries of the everyday and we are all laborers in the apostolate of the humdrum. Not recognizing this, we fall prey to comfort, to laziness, to timidity, to grumpiness, to pettiness, to materialism....or to dissatisfied restlessness. I speak to so many people who yearn to do something great - to have a vision, a call, a mission - to really contribute. For the most part, the Lord has already placed us exactly where He knows we can have the most impact! Our spouse, our children, our friends, our relatives, our coworkers, our neighbors, our mechanics and hairdressers and plumbers and accountants and physicians - these are the people He has entrusted to us and we have a true purpose to accomplish in our interactions with these people. Our own ordinary life is a place of greatness - here and now - if we can recognize that.  Let's aim to yield a hundredfold.

For anyone interested in reading about the more exotic years of missionary living in New Zealand:

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