Book Review! “Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World”

I don’t really feel like going to work tomorrow.

And it’s not because of where I work. I love what I do and everyone I work with. But some days I’m tired of the…regular-ness.

It’s crazy just how much of what we do each day we do again the next day. The alarm wakes us up. Then the snooze alarm wakes us up again. We make the bed. We clock in at work. We change diapers or wash dishes or file the report.

Tomorrow there will be more reports. More diapers. Always more dishes. And my bed won’t make itself. What does it mean when we cover the same ground every day? What do we accomplish by doing the same ordinary things day after day after day?

In Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, Michael Horton realizes that “ordinary” isn’t usually part of our life goals. “Who wants to be that ordinary person who lives in an ordinary town, is a member of an ordinary church, and has ordinary friends and works an ordinary job?”

But there’s more to it, Horton insists. Ordinary doesn’t mean mediocre, he says, adding that there “is a difference between frenetic activism and faithful activity.”

For the first half of the book, Horton outlines why we have a hard time with all things ordinary. Probably every human ever born has a desire to live a life that means something. Ecclesiastes reference. That may be especially so for the current generation. We hear inspirational voices telling us to make our lives count, make a difference. “God has great plans for you,” we hear at every graduation. Whether intended or not, the phrase “great plans” often implies something big and important.

Not ordinary.

We want to do important things and be important people. They say that everyone wants to save the world but no one wants to the dishes. Or change the diaper.

In the second half of Ordinary, Horton points out that, when we aim for big things, we “often miss the trees for the forest, looking for ambitious causes instead of actual people God has sent into our lives that moment, hour, day, or year.”

Because we follow a God who works in ordinary ways.

Oh, He can do the supernatural—and He has. He even became one of us to do the impossible and rescue us from inescapable death by dying in our place. Through that sacrificial death and His victorious resurrection, we are freed from having to measure up or make the cut. We can trust in His complete sufficiency and live to praise Him, never having to worry about appeasing Him. Or others.

“Our identity,” Horton concludes, “is no longer something we strive toward, based on an ambiguous standard and dependent on the approval of others.” We don’t have to find our place in the world because He has given us a place in His eternal family. We don’t have to base our worth on how important others think we are because our foundation is built on how great He really is. From here we can rest.

In that rest we can reach out, sharing the grace and love we’ve been given to those who are equally undeserving. We can greet and visit and send cards and invite over and pray just like He listened and prayed and taught and lived daily life.

Ultimately, our lives are anything but ordinary. We’re astronomically blessed, on the “receiving end of everything,” Horton says, as God freely gives us what we don’t deserve. We live in ordinary places, yes. But wonder of wonders, the God of endless galaxies and eternal ages will meet us here. While we wash the dishes.

“CNN will not be showing up to a church that is simply trusting God to do extraordinary things through his ordinary means of grace delivered by ordinary servants. But God will. Week after week.” – Michael Horton, Ordinary

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