When I was nine years old, I told anyone who asked that I was planning to be a missionary orphanage worker. I toted my American girl doll Addy to school for career day (pretending she was an African orphan).
I decided that I was going to adopt twin girls from Africa (since I’d heard that in some of the tribes twin babies were left to die because one supposedly had an evil spirit), and also adopt a little girl from China (since boys were preferred in the one-child policy).
I supposed it would be okay to give birth to a boy, since I hadn’t heard of any bad stories about them.
When I started college, my career aspirations shifted to becoming a public school teacher, shining the light of Jesus among the other teachers and students.
After Christopher and I got married, I ended up teaching for a year at a Christian school and prepared for yet another change in plans.
Since the time we’d started dating, Christopher and I had decided to move overseas and share the gospel with those who hadn’t heard. We spent six weeks in Iraq and made plans to join the team preparing to go long-term.
When we felt the Lord’s redirection to delight in Him and share Him in Delaware, it felt so small.
It was a lot more exciting to share plans of adventure with people than stories about Isaiah calling out for his daddy at the top of his lungs in Walmart (even though Daddy had already been at work for a few hours).
What if the mornings lingering over devotions and other reading, the time spent reading books to my son or making his stuffed animals talk to him would be better spent doing something else?
What if I should be fulfilling this or that need in the community? Someone has to, after all.
How could my life be pleasing to the Lord when everything feels so—ordinary?
What if I’m doing something that is keeping God from using me like He wants to?
My mentor Natalie asked me a question once that made me almost drop the phone in surprise. “Is God there to catch you and accept you regardless?”
She reminded me that our problems are so much more than we realize.
If God were to point out all my faults, sinful tendencies, and weaknesses, I’d probably want to hide in a cave and never come out.
If He condemned me for them, I would go to hell. (Romans 6:23)
Natalie said that God knows the true problems in our hearts and wants to meet our deepest and greatest needs with Himself.
I believe Satan is satisfied with anything we let tear our focus away from God, even if it’s the fear of being too ordinary.
Here are three questions I try to consider when I can’t tell the difference between my own concocted good deeds and God works:
1. Am I spending time with God?
If I’m not setting aside time to read God’s Word, pray, and find times of Sabbath rest, it will be much harder to seek His direction, delight in my relationship with Him, and be open to His conviction.
If my mind isn’t being filled with truth, condemnation and lies can weasel their way in until they bully out all the good thoughts.
2. Am I valuing the roles He’s placed me in?
Our culture values individuals. We rejoice when we see one man move up the ladder of success by sheer grit and determination. It can be exhausting if we’re trying to do the same thing with a toddler hanging off our waist and a husband who wants a hug and a listening ear after work.
It can be easy to resent the people God’s given us the most access to love.
3. Am I talking to God about my activities so that if He redirects, I’m available for the good works He’s prepared for me to do? (not the good opportunities that seem to come at me from all sides like balloons in a waterballoon fight.)
Most people in the Bible didn’t convince God to use them a certain way. In fact, they were doing pretty ordinary things.
- Joseph was babbling his dreams to his brothers and checking up on them for his father. (Genesis 37)
- Moses was taking care of sheep in the wilderness. (Exodus 3)
- Gideon was hiding from Midianite enemies while threshing wheat in a winepress. (Judges 6)
- Mary was probably helping her mom in her household, preparing for her marriage to Joseph. (Luke 1)
- Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishing. (Mark 1)
And when the people in the Bible did try to do awesome things, they usually forgot God in the process.
- Samson got his eyes plucked out and was obsessed with revenge even at the end of his life when he pushed the pillars down to kill a bunch of Philistines. (Judges 16) (Click here for some excellent Bible study podcasts on the book of Judges by Jen Wilkin.)
- Gideon refused to be king, but instead made a golden ephod, which the people worshiped. (Judges 8)
- Saul got scared when the prophet Samuel didn’t come before a battle and offered an unauthorized sacrifice. (1 Samuel 13)
Some short prayers I try to remember to pray (especially in times of confusion or false guilt) are:
“Jesus, would you help me to enjoy you today?”
“Father, I invite you into this day. Would you go before me and show me where You would have me love and serve?”
“I surrender my plans to You, Holy Spirit, and trust You to lead me.”
“Thank you for loving me even when I do sin. I ask for your conviction and freedom from any condemnation.”
“Would you make me more like you today, Jesus?”
I don’t know what my life will look like tomorrow, much less ten years from now. (Maybe He will bring those twins from Africa.) But I don’t want to live in shame or resent the ordinary tasks God is entrusting me with.
Because is any work God does really ordinary?
Is there a “good work” that needs surrendering? Is there a less noticeable one God is leading you to do instead?