Friday, July 1, 2016

The Power of Being Ordinary

"Spirituality is not a compartment or sphere of life. Rather, it is a lifestyle: the process of life lived with the vision of faith. Sanctity lies in discovering my true self, moving toward it, and living out of it. 

The highest spiritual development is to become ordinary: to become fully a man, in the way few human beings succeed in becoming so simply and naturally themselves... the measures of what others might be if society did not distort them with greed or ambition or lust or desperate want." -Brennan Manning, Abba's Child

I read these words in my book today that ignited a flashback to some words I had written myself some years ago in one of my journals, and I felt compelled to share them today. 

They are from 2014, during a time I felt like I was grappling with everything: life, family, health, relationships, what faith is, who God is- everything in existence that could possibly have required more strength and vision than I had. It was a time when I laid any semi-spiritual thought and intuition I had ever had down at the feet of Someone higher than myself, and learned what it meant to absolutely let go. To depend on and pray to a god who was not myself, to a God who listened. 

A time I stopped striving, and started painting. I hope they inspire you today.


There's been nothing social, economic, or intellectual about the decision to become an artist, and it's not a part of my life I can talk about without talking about faith. How could I start doing this- and stick with it- without divine guidance? Who commits an entire life to planless-ness, to the completely unknown? Never me, never ever me. And yet I feel more now than ever before that I truly do know what I'm doing: life is not random. I am sure of so much, the absolute first and foundational thing of which being the sovereignty of God. From there now flows my life. 

 Any decision to become who you are supposed to be (and to notice who you truly are) must come from a place which is more inner than any of us can immediately know and must be rooted in much more than what we think. What I am becoming is completely ordinary: this has been the result, not the goal, and it is the point I never knew I was seeking. To be completely myself, no striving for enlightenment or peace. Completely ordinary. Completely functioning in a strength that is in no way mine.

It shakes me every day that this is the point. To walk through this world living the way of God, not talking about the theology or knowing some facts. To reflect the heart of Christ in all interaction- big and small, at work, in friendship, to strangers; to be exactly the same person of exactly the same character in all instances (isn't that the ultimate achievement of authenticity, and inner peace? That the self is not at odds with itself? How did I not see it before, and why did I think self-management of a broken thing was the answer?).

To have no pretense about the behavior of other people because self-renouncing love has truly overridden any desire to compete or compare in any capacity. If a bad thing is out of your heart, you don't even need to worry about getting it out of your mind. What a joy to never think about anything, it sometimes seems, and to live life out of a renewed, redeemed heart.

To take hold of an existence which does not reflect any particular outward image: building no altars, chanting no chants, going through no proverbial motions, wearing no particular clothing or indicators that I am what the culture calls 'spiritual' or 'divine' and praying no prayers that are scripts alone; but being conversational and intimate with God, known and aware of His calling and constant outreach, achieved by the realization that the opinion of any man, spiritual teacher or harshest critic, is helpful to my humility but nowhere near an ultimate indicator of who I am. 

And to find absolutely nothing special about myself for anything, even for this discovery, understanding, or conduct- for it is not the thing on which a healthy spiritual life can live because the healthy spiritual life needs humility: for a person to be, not to seem, self-denouncing without being self-effacing or finding themselves unworthy. 

My worthiness is no longer something I ever think about or try to build any scaffolding around to ensure that it does not collapse under the weight of life's disappointments- it can't collapse if I get it from something that isn't collapsible. And that is much of the point: the whole ego, the whole idea of the self as anything other than God's beloved is gone. 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.'

It is the dependence on Christ alone that makes me anything at all. It is not art, not ability, not talent; nothing external or monetary; no degree or amount of intellect; no praise from any party; no relationship or lack thereof; nothing I have or nothing I could be proud of myself for renouncing. My being is not complex or cultural, but simple and eternal. Ordinary. So uncomplicated and ordinary.

It is an awareness of the profile of my soul, which I now know fully not by self-inspecting, but by facing fully that deepest need which every human being knows beyond a shadow of a doubt cannot come adequately from the external or internal world: we call it love, being known; it is the nature and character of God, and the only real duty and purpose of my existence is not to try to generate my own, but to respond to this life as though I know the miracle of Who's I am receiving. 


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