Friday, May 30, 2014

Mundane and Mediocre

I've been working through these thoughts in my head for the better part of...well, most of my adult life. I'm not even sure I'm going to post this.

 In my head, I called it "Mediocre for Jesus." But then I thought people might get the wrong idea about what I meant. So then I shelved it. But the idea itches at me even now.

So, let's start by clarifying right up front what I don't mean. I unequivocally believe that we are to Love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. We are to do all things with excellence. We are to do all for the glory of God the Father. We are to be hold or cold (meaning, USEFUL) and not lukewarm (without purpose). In these things, there is no room for mediocrity.

A little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to spend 2 precious hours with John Mark Reynolds, my dear friend and mentor from college. Though I've known him 15 years, I'm quite certain I'd never spent 2 uninterrupted hours getting to talk to him and his lovely wife. He's busy and in-demand, and always moving. John Mark is one of those world changer people. The people you're just better for knowing. The type of person you know will have many ripple effects for generations. And I am blessed to call him friend.

Naturally, he's surrounded by other world changers. I met him in a program he founded, designed to groom world-changers. The opportunity I had to spend with this precious couple happened precisely because he was here in Arizona to fundraise for another world-changer we know, and his Classical School.

So, you can imagine how awkward it feels to be the follow-up act to time with the world-changer. "So, what are you and Todd up to Jen?" We've stayed in touch over the years since I moved away so the question wasn't completely without an already-existent general knowledge of the answer. So rather than tell them what they already knew about being a mom and helping my husband run a body shop, I answered, "Well, we're trying to practice contentment in our mediocrity." They both looked at me, and I saw in their faces that they were looking for words to challenge what they thought was self-deprecation with some sort encouragement. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I'll clarify for you what I clarified immediately for them: this is not a self-esteem problem. I'm not looking for someone to give me a pep talk or to tell me I'm not mediocre.

What I mean is, I will probably never be a big-W World changer. I'll never be famous. My talent is not exceptional. Most of my strongest traits are my negative ones. On the "klout" score scale of life, I'll always fall squarely on the side of average.

And that's ok.

I think we've been deceived by this notion of "Go big or go home." Bigger is always better. Always. I think a lot of us spend a lot of time wishing we were bigger*, better, and more influential. (*Except for in the waistline, where I think we all want to be a little smaller, can I get an 'Amen?'"). I think this longing, left unchecked, leads to great discontentment, sadness, broken relationship, grief, depression, and distraction from our goal of loving our God and loving our neighbor.

We're told to "follow our dreams" but when those dreams don't pan out, or don't explode the way we think they should, we're left feeling lost and hopeless. The businessman is perceived as less "on fire for God" and less impactful in the kingdom than the bushwhacker. Churches get swept up in playing the numbers game, judging their impact and godliness by the size of their congregation and its pocketbook. We write songs that probably shouldn't be written just because they sound good and will go "big" in radio play. We race to our facebooks and our latest blog posts to see how many likes and comments we have. We want to be the mom in the playgroup with the most well-behaved child, or the most-influential blog, or the greatest-kept parenting secret that will change everyone's life when we share it with them. We end marriages when every moment of every day is not filled with 'epic' love. We can't send $100 so we don't send $10. We hold contests and award shows and autographs. We tout that these are the measure of success and the goal to which we should aspire.

We're searching for a significance among the created that we don't realize we have already in the eyes of the Creator.

The reality is that we can't all go big. For every Billy Graham, there are thousands of men leading their little flocks faithfully each week. Shepherd anyway. For every best-seller, there are millions of unfinished manuscripts. Write anyway. For every grammy winning voice, there is an abundance of noise-makers. Sing anyway. For every epic-love story, there are countless quite ordinary love stories. Love anyway. For every super mom, there are many of us average moms. Mom anyway. Do it all with as much excellence and faithfulness as is in you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Rather take our ball and go home, I propose that we try to excel in our obscurity. Let us do our jobs well. Let us love our families well. Let us love our neighbors well. Let us write, and pray, and cook, and sing, and dance, and work, and parent, and love in all our average-ness, for the glory of the God who created us to do those things. Be excellent at being a good neighbor, friend, sibling, employee, parent, child, roommate, customer, passenger, stranger, juror, voter, passerby, witness, coach, teacher, mentor.  Be excellent at loving, and learning, and obeying, and worshiping, and praying, and forgiving. You probably won't change the big-W world. But it's ok to change just your world. I put forward that it is a worthwhile, God-honoring thing to be excellent at being average.

The Holy Spirit at work within us is the same as the one at work in the world-changers. Our triune God is Big and Uncontainable and Excellent. And He works on stages both large and small.

I find no fault in the world-changers who genuinely are equipped and called to go Big. My life will forever be better because of the Reynolds family, and Christendom will be better for them too. Rejoice and celebrate with those who do the big things. Equip and encourage them if you can. It's a good and noble thing to want your sphere of influence for God's glory to be as large as possible. And indeed it is a dishonorable thing to squander your talents and to neglect a call of God on your life to do more than you are, whether it is big or small Where I find the problem is when those who don't go-Big buy into the lie that we've missed some sort of mark or failed some sort of test of usefulness in God's kingdom.

I feel like this is all rather cliche. It's true, this is no great revelation. Even these thoughts are mediocre. But I admit that I am one who falls prey to the temptation to be significant. All around me, I see the Devil using it to distract and weigh down God's children. And he wouldn't use it if it didn't work.

So, I remind myself to be excellently, radically average for Jesus and to be content in this beautifully little life He has for me.


  1. Well said! Thank you for sharing.

  2. I love this, too!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Amen! I feel that this could be my life motto. Aren't you glad God never said to be the best, but to take the gifts he's given and give them to Him. My life was most changed by a "mediocre" woman who did great things for God right were she was as an admin assistant because she gave who she was to God.