Today’s culture strives to be many things. Fastest. Coolest. Sexiest. Newest. But never, ever mundane. Death before anything boring, or tedious, or God forbid, looooooong-terrrrrmmmmm. That’s just not the way we do things anymore.
With our cell phone cocked, Google has helped us forget how to walk across the room to pick up the “W” encyclopedia (remember those?) in order to know the difference between a male and female watermelon. Waze completely trumps the pulling over into a gas station to ask for directions. And social media cameras have made extinct the art of taking a picture of your food so that you could wait a week for the film to develop and then go around to your neighbors and show them what you ordered…oh wait. We never did that. Why is that a thing?!?!
The art of appreciating the mundane has been lost. We’ve devalued it and made it subpar to our microwaved, cutting-edged, hi-speed internet daily experiences. Nobody posts a picture of washing dishes. Or of changing a poopy diaper. Or of arguing and then making up with your spouse (well, that making up part might be inappropriate to share). You get my drift.
But it’s all a lie. A facade. Instant gratification for our senses that only satisfies for a moment. The true beauty of life is in the every day, walking-around life. The miraculous springs forth from the mundane…we just need to relearn how to notice its magnificence. Here’s a story of real-life hero that can help awaken us to this truth.
Almost 40 years ago, a man who had been fighting an incurable disease for many years was lying in a hospital bed. Having undergone an extremely invasive surgery, he and his wife awaited the consensus from the doctors whether or not this brand-new procedure would actually save his life. In that waiting, a priest walked in…kinda sounds like a joke, but it was everything but. He ironically offered this very sick man an opportunity to join an inaugural program to become a Catholic ordained minister. (For those of you who are not Catholic, this role of Deacon is much like the associate pastor at non-denom church.) Fortunately, this man recovered fully, and he chose to pick up the challenge of ministry.
After two years of intense study, there was a beautiful celebration of ordination; the kind of extravagance Culture loves to brag about…but then the work began. Every week, like clockwork, he would visit and pray for the sick and gather with widows to bless them. He and his wife began offering premarital counseling with couples, as well as supporting annual marriage seminars. Baptisms. Funerals. And every month, he would have the opportunity to teach in the weekend masses. Probably the first couple years, the newness of it all was fun and extremely fulfilling. But after the first decade…and the second decade…and the third decade…I’m sure many these offerings of service began to feel more like sacrifices. Mundane, even.
And yet, he never gave in to the temptation to just quit, or skip a week, because he was too tired. He never allowed himself to give his second-best. Because he understood something that I pray I will never forget, and it is this: Even though by year 30, he had completed over 1500 hospital visits, representing probably over 4500 families…there was yet family #4501 who needed this deacon to walk into their fearful and stressed-out hospital room to bring the tangible gift of peace that he always carried with him. So again, he schlepped in the snow to the hospital. And there was still the widow visit #251 who needed to know God had not forgotten about her, so he quickly ate his dinner to be there on time. And there was still the Sunday mass #362 where a congregation sat, desperately needing to be uplifted and encouraged by the marvelous way he opened up the Word. So he continued on.
Mundane? Maybe Culture would say that. But for that family standing over their hospitalized child, or that widow, or that congregation, this is the last word they’d use. They’d call it an intersection of heaven meeting earth in their greatest time of need. The Body of Christ in action. Miraculous.
My heart bursts with pride because this man is my father, and he is celebrating almost 40 years in ministry. This past weekend, he officially announced his retirement, but anyone who knows Richard Olson knows this simply means he’ll be hangin’ out in the wings, ready and willing to serve people: whenever, wherever, and however. He’s not afraid to do the mundane because he sees the miraculous in it.
The Fearless 365 Week Twenty-One Challenge: FEARLESS TO BE MUNDANE. Let’s forego the lie that the spectacular is only in the extreme and the exciting. Rather, let’s look for the beauty in the here and now. The everyday meals with family and friends. The smiles exchanged with strangers. The sunset. The serving we do daily to our spouse, children, and co-workers. Bed-time prayers. Morning wake up calls. Rush-hour traffic.
And let’s not be afraid to perform those mundane services that help people. The weekly text to encourage a friend. A visit to a family dealing with sickness…better yet, take them a home-cooked meal! A letter written to thank a teacher, a police officer, a politician, a service worker.
Maybe we’ve been searching for the wrong stimuli to quench the emptiness we sometimes feel in our souls. Instead of seeking instant gratification for ourselves, let’s be more like Richard Olson and serve someone else in need. Let’s turn the mundane into the miraculous.