American society bombards us with the message that newer and bigger are always better. Our advertising media is built on the premise, “You could have so much more! Go for it! After all, you’re worth it!” If you settle for last year’s model or stay in the smaller house, take a simpler vacation, or become rooted in that small community — well, you’re just not with it.
Zack Eswine is a minister in a small-town church in Missouri. A few years back, he wrote a memoir of his work there. The book is about seeking to grow in loving God and neighbor in our local place for the global good in Jesus.
He writes that we cannot find God in the ordinary. We move restlessly from one grand moment to the next.
The next place, the next job, the next house, the next degree, the next rank will be what we want. Then we will be satisfied.
Where one is right now should be the place where we thrive.
As I continue my life journey, I become less inclined to chase whatever is next. I am slowly learning to believe that where I am is where I am supposed to be. God calls us to a local place.
Zach’s words resonate in my soul and bring rest to my spirit. A continual pursuit of the next big thing is exhausting. I’m learning to live in the moment. Everyone should embrace the ordinary because of the following three reasons.
Knowing your locality is knowing your present place well — knowing the community, the people, and the plants and trees in your yard. We have roots in an area. To be deeply rooted is to be established.
I think of the trees in our yard at home. One tree on the side of our property is little more than a tall twig. It has no leaves. Its roots never established themselves in the soil. The tree on the other side of our property shows signs of health. The branches have leaves. The bark is healthy. The base of the tree is large. The roots are well established and draw in the water and nutrients that the tree needs to remain healthy.
There are many aspects of military life that I like. One thing I don’t like so much is the transient nature of our lives. We get two to three years in one place and then on to a new location. There is never enough time to put down roots. When people ask where home is, I’ll often say it is wherever the Navy sends my family and me. There will come a day when somewhere will be where I live with my wife in retirement. Until then, roots are elusive. We trust God to provide friends and community in each new place that we live.
A few years ago, I spoke with a Marine while we were sitting at a bonfire. I shared that I find it hard to want to invest too much in a place knowing I am likely only going to be there for a short time. I said I don’t like to invest too deeply in relationships because doing so makes leaving all that much harder.
My friend said that he did not struggle with this. Instead, throughout his life, first as a military brat and then during a twenty-year career in the Marine Corps, he had found it was best to “bloom where he was planted.” He said he had learned to invest quickly in relationships knowing that he would only be in a place for a short period.
Human flourishing requires us to love our neighbors. Part of this love is that we are to seek to meet their needs. If we are always pining for the next place, we will overlook the needs around us.
There is a gift you have that someone around you needs.
If we tune into the local environment, we’ll discover all sorts of needs that others have that we can address. If everyone committed to meeting the needs of those in their local area, the world would be a better place.
No matter how many exciting things we do, the reality is that most of life is full of the ordinary. We go to school, work, exercise, pay the bills, sleep and get up to do it all over again. We must do the ordinary well. If we don’t do the everyday things well, our life will be out of balance.
Several years ago, Eugene Peterson wrote a book titled A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Peterson’s book is an antidote to the everything fast, interconnected society. People who live with significance commit to doing the ordinary extraordinarily well.
God is in the local and at work in the ordinary. When I embrace this, rest comes for my soul.
In the Bible, Paul wrote:
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have, and …Godliness with contentment is itself great wealth… So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. (Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6, 8; NLT)
Friend, be rooted, meet needs, and live in the reality of the ordinary. As you do, you will find contentment for your soul and peace in your spirit.
Reflect on your life. Do you struggle with the ordinary? Do you lack roots in your life? Are you attuned to meeting the needs of those around you?