Just read this post by Melanie Dale, who writes about living a life she didn’t choose. Her story resonates!
I often struggle with our culture’s obsession with living a big-adventure, unconventional, extraordinary life. While I’m the first one up for a big adventure and extraordinary anything, let’s face it: life can sometimes be downright hard and limiting due to forces far beyond our control. The relentless challenge to live an outside-the-box, call-of-the-wild adventure can sometimes feel more cruel than inspiring.
“Ordinary,” we are told, is a sell out. If we aren’t pursuing our dreams–and mind you, it better be a BIG dream–then we are, at best, settling. At worst, we are losers because we lack the faith or the personal gumption to “be all that we can be!”
I just don’t buy it anymore.
As a Christian, if Jesus is my model (and he should be, right?) his version of an extraordinary life is not exactly the adventure-filled, wild ride we have in mind. But if Jesus taught us anything about living an extraordinary life, he taught us to follow him into places we would never otherwise venture. In fact, he taught us that losing your life is the way to finding it.
Don’t get me wrong. We were created to dream and to cultivate the unique gifts that each of us possess. In fact, Jesus often challenged the too-small thinking of his followers, just as he also challenged them to use the gifts they already had to accomplish extraordinary things.
At the same time, I don’t know about you, but I’ve followed my dreams right off a cliff before. I’ve learned to be careful what I ask for!
I’m also learning to dream big but then to ask God to help me trust him to fulfill those desires in ways I cannot imagine.
One of my favorite movies is Under the Tuscan Sun. In the film, the main character is a depressed and despondent divorce who, on a whim, buys an old villa in Italy and sets out to renovate both the home and her wreck of a life. All kinds of things go awry, of course, and during one particular low point, she sobs to her only friend in the village, who also happens to be her realtor, about all the dreams she had for her house–dreams of a wedding and children and home filled with friends and family. “I bought a house for a life that I don’t even have,” she wails. I don’t want to spoil the film for you, but let’s just say that by the end of it, there’s a wedding, but it’s not hers. There’s a child, but it’s not hers. But she is surrounded by extraordinary love, family, and friendship. The realtor reminders her: she got everything she wished for and more, just not as she imagined it. But the reality, though much messier and more frustrating than her dream, was also a better and even more of a beautiful mess than she could have conjured on her own.
No one would choose a cancer diagnosis. But because of that diagnosis, I’ve been introduced to new levels of extraordinary. Like the regular phone calls from my sons…just to talk. (If you have sons, you know just how extraordinary this is!) Or like the friends and family who showed up on my doorstep with food or flowers, or sat all day with me at the hospital. Or my friend, Dawn, who sends me something to laugh about every, single day. Or my friend Connie who cooks for me when we’re together, not because I can’t cook for myself but because she is spoiling me a little. Or like the quiet back-porch nights with Barry that are even better when it’s storming.
Or there’s my new friend Audrey at the radiation center. She’s a feisty, sassy grandmother of 10 who loves the Elks Club and likes to wear the hospital cape with the poker cards all over it. She scared, but she’s brave. I like her.
There is a certain amount of drudgery, frustration, and fear in everyday life that no one is immune to. But extraordinary usually happens right there, right in the midst of the muck and mess. I have a vivid picture in my mind of the first time my son Isaac smiled. I was an exhausted mess of “new mom, ” who was just hoping this 3 am feeding would go quickly so I could go back to bed! And then he stopped, looked right at me, and grinned from ear to ear. Thirty-three years later, I still see it perfectly.
Losing your life to find it is such a strange but true paradox. I’m not suggesting that there’s any romantic allure to pain or suffering. I’m only saying that if we look closely at the cracks in our oh-so-ordinary lives, we may find a bit of glory filtering through.
This post by Melanie Dale speaks beautifully to the whole idea of finding an extraordinary life in the least expected place. It deserves a read!
Melanie Dale knows something about life not looking like she thought it would. After twelve years of building her family through infertility and adoption, she finally snuggled down with three kids from three different continents, cultures, and stories. She thought, “Now the fun begins,” but then they encountered diagnosis after diagnosis. With words like “autism,”…