The Power of the Ordinary
Our culture has a bias toward the spectacular. The ESPNTop Ten Plays of the Day feature thunderous dunks, spectacular catches, remarkable saves, and very little of the fundamentals that are essential for athletic success. Even a cursory glance at social media makes the lives of others appear like a “highlight film” and gives us the sense that others’ lives are truly spectacular and successful while ours feels so…ordinary…tedious, and perish the thought…boring! These highly edited, selective views of games and lives subtly feed our discontentment, covetousness, and envy. They rarely feature the sustained effort over time that is the pre-requisite for success.
In our LCS parents’ prayer time last Tuesday morning, one parent prayed that “the ordinary disappointments of high school life” would be used by God to accomplish God’s purpose in the lives of ninth graders. Another prayed that the “low level suffering” that they may experience will make them stronger. These are very insightful petitions as we consider how to best prepare our children for what’s ahead in life.
What does it take for students to properly interpret and navigate the “disappointments and low-level suffering” that routinely come their way? What does it take for us as parents not to get swept up in unhealthy efforts to alleviate these bumps in our children’s paths?
We tend to focus on the “big events” of life as the functional shapers of the trajectory of our story. But if the old adage is true that, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you choose to handle it,” then perhaps the corollary is that the way we handle the big events of life, whether positive or difficult, is shaped by the ordinary practices in our lives that have been habitually in place leading up to the big event.
Success on the SAT and ACT is more likely to come from faithful, quiet, study, day after day, night after night, putting in the time over years of schooling. While weekend prep classes provide profit centers for academic entrepreneurs and on occasion some measure of improvement in students’ test scores, there is no substitute for steady work over the long haul. If you desire academic success for your child, teach them that there is no substitute for putting in the time to achieve mastery in learning. Sometimes it even involves passing up opportunities that are more fun to grind it out.
Ordinary means of grace
In terms of our spiritual development, there is no substitute for what the Puritans called the “ordinary means of grace.” The reading and preaching of the Word of God, prayer, sacraments, and the community of believers gathering for public worship are still the primary means of how God calls people to salvation and grows them in the grace of the gospel.
If you would have your children mature in their walk with God there is no substitute for putting in the time reading the Word together, praying together, and worshiping together. Leading our children in the reading and study of God’s Word is not to be relegated only to the church or the Christian school. It is first and foremost to happen in the home (Deuteronomy 6:4-10).
Ordinary authenticity…extraordinary results
Students are careful discerners of their parents’ values. A child that sees a parent reading the Word, praying, and sharing authentic expressions about their walk of faith- struggles and all- gains an understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in everyday life. Parents model the value of worship and being under the preached Word by insuring that faithful weekly attendance is a non-negotiable practice for the whole family. Living out ones faith in the ordinary routines of life leaves powerful imprints on young minds and hearts.
So the next time you watch highlights from sports or see another post from someone’s exotic vacation, be reminded of the power of the ordinary. Faithfulness in the ordinary can reap extraordinary results!