Does God Want Mediocrity for Me?

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leslie verner -does god want mediocrity for me-3

Unpacking boxes after our recent move, I spotted a long-forgotten envelope. On it, I had written my parents’ home address in pencil. Unfolding the paper from the envelope, I remembered sprawling out on the carpeted floor of our church youth room with twenty other teenagers, scribbling out our goals on church letterhead paper. Our youth pastor instructed us to write out one-month, one-year, five-year and twenty-year goals for our lives.

Life was so easily scripted back then: graduate from high school and college, get a job, get married, have kids. My twenty-year goals were less radical than I remembered: “be married (to a Christian), have kids, never smoke, work (a Christian occupation).” In that order.

Somewhere along the way in my journey as a Christian, dynamic youth pastors, college group leaders, and passionate preachers expanded my list of life goals. They added: “Be radical. Don’t settle or sell out. God has a special plan for your life. Be different. Follow/answer/find the call. Step out in faith. Don’t waste your life.”

When I was 16, I walked the aisle to give my life to God in missions, even if it meant surrendering my dreams for marriage and children. I was ready to go, even if it meant dying in a jungle somewhere or at the very least becoming weirder and weirder as I adapted to a world so different from my own. I accepted an application to attend a Christian college and begin my journey as a world changer. Or so I thought.

An article recently made the rounds on social media that bothered me. Three of my friends from different spheres of life shared it on Facebook, causing me to bristle each time. It was called “What If All I Want is a Mediocre Life?” Published in January of 2016, as of now it has 614 comments and has been shared 284,000 times on Facebook. The article gives permission to scale back Big Dreams to small, now-type of living. It is simple and beautiful, but my internal red flags still waved furiously.

I am an adventure junkie. I thrive on the thrill of newness and change. As a thrill-seeker, I assume the next step must be the hard one. I live in fear of selling out. Words like “mediocre” profane my world changer’s identity and sense of purpose.

There’s a tendency to mix up God’s will with our next great adventure. But I’ve learned a few things since lounging on the youth room floor over twenty years ago and later following the “call” to go overseas. I now sway to the cadence of life’s seasons with a bit more finesse. I side with Solomon who touts the times for everything.

There are times in life for living large and striding into scary places, taking risks and striking out into new lands. New love interests, jobs and cities terrify and excite us equally. Thrills and drama, waves and splendor, flood our veins with purpose and momentum. We are new graduates, new brides, new mothers, new residents, new employees, new empty nesters or new retirees. But new morphs into old and we yearn for new again.

Most of life is lived to the tune of small and stable. Seasons switch with a blink and we adapt to the clothing, climate and rhythm of days chained together by monotony. I think the author advertising her desire to live a mediocre life is in one of those seasons. And if I’m honest, I am, too. These are the long days of commuting to the same job in the same town with same people. We are students, nurses, assistants, teachers or stay-at-home moms. We grocery shop, pump gas, sweep the floor and call our mothers on the phone. If we are married, we send sexy text messages like, “Heading back!” and “Can you pick up some milk at the store?”

But I still don’t believe God wants us to live mediocre lives. Perhaps it’s all a matter of semantics and “mediocre” is the wrong term. Perhaps she should have used the word “ordinary” or “simple.” But mediocrity means “of only moderate quality” or “not very good.” Nowhere does the Bible say “be mediocre” or “your life with God will be of only moderate quality.”

Instead, Jesus invites us to quench our thirst in wells of living water that never dry up. He calls us to wonder, delight, compassion, and transformation. We are to pray continually and tune in to the special station of Spirit whispers. We are to love wildly—even when it is undeserved. The Bible speaks of abundant, extravagant, never failing, never ending, powerful love that transcends time, space, matter, failings and fallings. Jesus used ordinary objects like seeds, soil, bread, wine, wheat, water, vines, branches, and human bodies as symbols of the sacred. We are kingdom people living in a kingdom that is not yet.

Our realities are the usual things—our routines, structure and to-do lists. But God is always looking for ways to poke holes in our normal lives where God’s light can burst through. God doesn’t do mediocrity, but God does do mystery in the monotony—if we are paying attention.

 

 

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Leslie Verner
I am a goer who is learning how to stay. I’ve traveled all over the world and lived in northwest China for five years before God U-turned my life and brought me back to the U.S. to get married to an actor in Chicago. I’m a former middle school teacher, mama to three little ones and like American cuisine the least. I currently live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and write regularly about faith, justice, family and cross-cultural issues at Scraping Raisins.
Leslie Verner
Leslie Verner

Latest posts by Leslie Verner (see all)

  • Fritha Washington

    I want to jump up and down! Yes, love! I’m adapting back into my home culture after years doing YWAM overseas and yes my life doesn’t feel like an adventure but I’m still called to love radically…perfect piece for me today. Stuff mediocrity. Bring on tiny every day kingdom things.

    • Yes! I’ve been back from China nearly 8 years, and this is still my struggle. Good thing God is not bound by location;-)

  • All the likes and yeses to this. Even in this seemingly exotic place, someone just asked about my daily life and when I explained kids to school, our walk to school, making dinner, grocery shopping – it all sounded so mundane. It is so easy to always be reaching for the new and exciting. But oh how exciting and scary our lives would be if we really took seriously His call to love wherever we are instead. I’m such a work in progress there…

    • I remember thinking the same thing when I lived overseas, but it still helps to have you remind me! No matter where we are, life is often more monotony than magic. But God is there. Keep telling me, though, because I forget!

  • Stacey Pardoe

    Leslie, you’re walking to the beat of the same drum I’ve been marching to for quite some time now. I remember seasons in my twenties when I was convinced that my life was going to be this radical kind of adventure for God, and when it seemed to slip into this very ordinary life of parenting two little ones, grocery shopping, and laundry, I wondered if I was settling. I sincerely believe you’re right. In many cases, it’s not that we’ve settled for average; we’re simply living out our callings in ordinary ways!

  • Pardon me for just gushing all over this post. Routine is where my soul goes to die, but that has been my life for 24 years of motherhood, so when these words from G.K. Chesterton came to me at some point along the way, I felt as if someone had thrown me a line leading to hope:
    “God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It’s possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

    • Oooooh, I LOVE that quote! It’s going in the journal;-)

    • Bethany Lynn Tosh Young

      That is an amazing quote!

  • “But new morphs into old and we yearn for new again.” -> So true….

    I wrestled with the word “mediocre” too. Simple and ordinary would’ve had my wheels turning faster.

    “God doesn’t do mediocrity, but God does do *mystery in the monotony*—if we are paying attention.” —> I’m going to hang on to that!

    Thanks Les! This was such a great reminder.

    • Thank you, Tina! And I love that you called me Les;-)

  • Nodding, nodding, nodding along with so much in this piece. The walking-down-the-aisle to saying yes to missions at 16, assuming the next step is always the hard one, stepping out, desperately not wanting to waste my life. Yes and yes and yes. This stuff on it’s own can get in the way, and make me fixate on things I’m not supposed to fixate on. But we don’t get to let ourselves off the hook either. What a wonderful articulation of how we should aim to live wherever we are, whatever we’re doing.

    • Thanks, Beth! I feel like we could have our own support group. “Wanna-be World-Changers Anonymous.”

  • Lizzie Goldsmith

    Thank you for this, Leslie. It’s helpful for me in my restlessness, as I try to navigate the balance between staying where I am just because it’s easy, and change for the sake of change. Moving toward that which is more life-giving and purposeful isn’t always as easy as we think it will be.Thank you for these thoughtful words at this thoughtful time.

    • It’s so hard to live in the tension and discern if our discontentment and “restlessness,” as you said, means we should be somewhere else, or if we should just look for what God is doing right under our noses. Still figuring this out, obviously!

  • I agree, I think it’s a semantics thing. I find articles like that helpful when I start romanticizing ways of living that aren’t my reality. I’m learning to find adventure and delight in these mediocre days, when I don’t feel like I’m doing my very best or when life seems half-hearted. Looking for that sacred mystery in these repetitive days!

  • Bethany Lynn Tosh Young

    Love this, Leslie! I feel like having very young kids is like the perfect mix of monotony but also constant chaos. I’ve been struggling with the feeling of never having enough time or health to do “great things for God”, but at the same time feeling like this life is more challenge than my supposedly great creativity can handle. Raising a six-year-old = all-the-time frantic mental scrambling and emotional work outs. 🙂 So I’ve been trying to re-think my “doing great things for God” and what that might look like. I LOVED (and still love, as I am re-reading it) Osheta’s “Shalom Sistas” and how she talks about choosing Ordinary Acts of Peace and how being transformed by God’s good love lets us bring that inner shalom into our lives as they are. I am someone who lives for to-do lists, but I have been trying to trade in the lists for loving however I can at whatever times are available, including and especially my interactions with my kids… I think the danger of labeling things like taking care of the kids and the house as monotonous or mediocre is that we then don’t see the “normal” stuff as opportunities to be Jesus in the world. But someone needs to be Jesus to my kids and my house and my neighbours and the moms at school drop off and pick up. And it’s me, for now. 🙂

    • You are so right. So much of it is about our attitude, really, but also about seeing what’s right in front of us as God’s will for us for right now. That’s funny that you mentioned Osheta’s book, because last week I was driving around Denver, trying to find a new, more diverse/”needy” neighborhood to plant our family instead of the very white, safe neighborhood we currently live in (I was also hoping my 3 kids would fall asleep in the car so I could listen to a podcast). On the hour-long drive back home, they finally all slept and I listened to a podcast–Osheta reading the first chapter of her book! And of course it was all about being where God has you and looking for ways to bring life right where you are. So thank you for the reminder that someone needs to be Jesus to my kids, my house and all the people I rub shoulders with in a day. Apparently I need these reminders often–like, daily;-)

  • Love this and I bristle, too, at the mediocre mantra. Not what God has in mind. Sameness, tho, and settling into regularity, may and the more I rest in Him, rather than in my view of myself, the mystery reveals itself despite the monotony. It really is about the relationship. Great post.

    • Hey Sue! Sorry I’m just seeing your comment. And yes to resting in him and trusting him to reveal the mystery in our monotony. Thanks for reading:-)

  • Lauren Purser

    Amen! I like to call it the “extraordinary ordinary” or the “beauty in the mundane”. It’s all about perspective.

  • Aj

    You put this so beautifully! I remember reading that article and being like yes that’s fine, but what if I want more, more adventure and possibility. I felt bad for judging those around me for settling. I like the way you put it, that it’s all seasons and reasons.