Ordinary: noun. According to my handy-dandy computer desktop dictionary, “with no special or distinctive features; normal.”
This summer, my life is quite ordinary.
No exotic missions trip where I travel and serve. No fancy vacation where I escape the prairie. No ministry where I see life change happen every week. No independent living where I strike out on my own.
Instead, I spend every day at the pool, where I teach kiddos to front crawl and tell too-brave dudes to go back where they can touch. I head home to food I didn’t have to buy and laundry I didn’t have to do. I read books and do crafts and go online far too much. I drive to the cabin and float on the lake and eat too much and read even more.
My most exciting upcoming plans involve getting my wisdom teeth out.
My summer is comfortable, familiar, and undeniably ordinary.
And sometimes that bothers me.
Sometimes it feels like everyone else is out having adventures in the great wide somewhere. They’re making a whopping difference in the world. They’re talking Jesus and meeting needs and speaking love in places that desperately need it.
And meanwhile I’m sitting in small-town Minnesota slathering on sunscreen and talking about the chicken-airplane-soldier. (That’s the elementary backstroke, for those of you who don’t speak Level 3 swimming lessons.)
Don’t get me wrong. I adore living with my family, the five other people who understand the awesomeness of evening walks and staying up late and eating ice cubes. I enjoy diving back into small-town life, where the photo of the town lifeguards makes the front page of the local paper and where driving on gravel roads is not just something they talk about in country songs. I love my job, where I get to be with kids and swim and be outside every day. I relish having enough free time to read and craft and breathe. But in comparison to the life-changers and adventurers I see, my life seem so ordinary, my influence so piddly.
But I’m beginning to realize that that attitude is a little crooked.
When I think like this, I put influence in terms of things I can see. I know I’m meeting needs when I see a hungry child get food. I know kids are encountering Jesus when I see them lift their hands in worship. I know I’m adventuring when I see new places and bump into new challenges.
However, I can’t limit my influence to what can be immediately seen and touched and heard. What about the kid who needs someone to give him confidence, not only so he can dive off the board but also for other scary stuff he might encounter? (Though there are few things scarier than the first time diving off the board, let me tell you.) What about the kid who needs a smile, even from a big ol’ intimidating lifeguard? What about the mom who needs another pair of eyes to keep her children safe? These are legitimate needs. And they are needs I can meet. Just because I’m not living across the world or seeing lives change every day does not mean I’m not having an impact. Right where I am, I can still make a difference, still love people, still change the world (or at least the part of the world that comes to the pool).
And even if it gives me sunburn, there’s nothing ordinary about that.