Average. Mediocre. Run-of-the-mill. Have you ever felt like any of these words apply to you and your life? There are those you wish you were more like, others you are happy not to be, and others who seem comparable. Your life is good, fine, nothing special.
In those moments, when other people seem to be taking those great vacations, getting those promotions, purchasing those new cars, losing all the baby weight, buying a new home, or sharing pictures of those new babies, you can feel small. A smallness that imitates how mediocre your life feels in comparison. Nothing to share, at least nothing others might want to hear about, praise you for, or celebrate with you. You aren’t suffering or bearing big burdens well, either, so no news to share in that realm. Perhaps worse than nothing to share is an attempt at sharing and the letdown of a less-than-enthusiastic reaction.
Being average in a world of highly curated social media feeds messes with our heads. It can be difficult for us, as Christians clothed in our human susceptibility to feeling inadequate, to separate how we feel here on Earth, surrounded by filtered moments, from the glory of our kingdom in Christ. It is easy for us, too, to apply judgments and draw conclusions about other people’s lives in the same way—of course this person has it easy because of his job and comfortable bank account, or thank God I am not struggling like she is struggling.
When we use others as a reference point in understanding our own lives, we end up doing two things: We make other human beings the determining factor of our progress and value, and we pass judgment on others using incomplete and often inaccurate information. Indeed, we do another thing: We take for ourselves Christ’s power to judge, and end up judging Christ in the process.
Now, this post is not about social media use, and there will be no chiding of those who love a good tweet or Insta pic (follow us @forgingfamiliesiwc). Rather, this is for those of us who are playing the comparison game and demonstrating the rules of that game for our children. Some of us rate ourselves, pridefully, on top; others at the bottom; and even more of us find ourselves somewhere in that average, middling place. I’d like to focus on that last group, those of us who feel like we have a life that seems less exceptional than that of others.
1 John 2:17 reminds us that, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” The things of this world, the parts of our lives and of our culture that receive the greatest praise on social media, are more often than not left off of God’s list of goodness and value. The things of this world, and what it desires, praises, and values, will most certainly pass away, as quickly as a dollar bill loses its value when torn in two.
What is the will of God that John references? What are these things that will live forever? We cannot possibly begin to know God’s mind, but there are some things that certainly align with His will. We can stop playing the comparison game. We can love with abandon. We can pray fervently. We can serve others. We can give to our churches, to the poor, to those in desperate need. We can raise our children to know and love Him. As parents, we can practice the type of forgiveness, love, and acceptance of our children that God demonstrates for us. We can hold ourselves accountable to doing what is good and just. We can settle into our seemingly small, average lives with grateful hearts.
Paul’s first letter to Timothy reminds us that peaceful and quiet lives are good lives:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” 1 Timothy 2:1–3
Are you demonstrating that type of life for your children? Your community? Most importantly, for God? A life like that—full of godliness, a peaceful, quiet one—is a life lived for God. There is nothing average about a life like that.
Maybe your life still feels small, even after focusing on prayer, discipleship, attending church, and giving to the poor. Maybe you just want to be be jealous for a few minutes of someone whose life seems bigger and better than yours. Maybe you know your life would be easier, more comfortable, just BETTER, with what other people have. But the truth, written in God’s own Holy Book, is that a quiet, little life can be the best life.
So, make peace with your life. Strive for excellence with the right motivation, but never replace God’s commands for your life with a desire to achieve and accomplish in order to have something worth boasting about. Instead, strive for excellence in your prayer life, your discipleship, and the ways you love and care for your family and community.
Seek Him, and the mediocre will become extraordinary.
Your friend and servant,