In the past couple of weeks, one of the common trends in social media has been people pointing out how innately boring and dull being confined at home is. Our timelines are filled with jokes, memes, and what can only be termed as exasperated outbursts of people struggling to keep their kids and themselves occupied. There are countless articles with lists on productive and fun things one can do while quarantined or under lockdown. All these can be easily disregarded as nothing more than people merely trying their best to cope with a stressful situation. Conversely, all this also reveals something deeply disturbing about our modern society and our hearts.
We in the modern day are blessed with material comforts and luxuries unknown to people in the past. We enjoy technological innovations beyond our ancestors' wildest imaginations. The internet has brought the world to our fingertips and we are able to remain connected with our friends, family, work, and church even when the whole world has come to a grinding halt. We have options unparalleled in the history of civilization.
The internet, and social media has changed us all. We know this. We live in a world that is fascinated with the latest. The newest. We simply are not satisfied and keep craving for something more. Something bigger. Something sensational. In that quest for the extraordinary, we have lost the wonder of the ordinary. Reading a book, grabbing coffee at the local café, enjoying lunch with friends, or just going to the park with your family for a picnic were normal things we often took for granted. All those car rides, having a designated place to go to work in the mornings, or picking up groceries at the local store without any scarcity all became commonplace. So mundane that we often whined about these blessings that God graciously showered upon us.
One of the things COVID-19 is doing is forcing all of us to reevaluate what we took for granted. This coronavirus is a clarion call to awaken us from perhaps the greatest problem in the modern world: the apathy towards life itself. With entertainment to dull our senses, and countless attractive distractions for us, our society has bought into the lie that true fulfillment in life is found in the exciting and the uncommon.
Contrary to this, the man who lived the most fulfilled life on this earth is the simplest man with the most prosaic of all desires. Jesus came from the lowliest of homes. While we do not know much about his childhood, we can only imagine him probably playing with basic toys that his father Joseph would have sculpted from stone and playing with the other young boys in the neighborhood. He never had a sophisticated formal education other than being taught by his parents around the table and at the local synagogue. As the eldest son, he likely grew up helping his mother with much of the work around the house, and his father with his carpentry. These ordinary things did not embarrass him; rather, he found great satisfaction in them.
When he grew up he never needed a bed to sleep or a roof over his head. The canopy of stars that his Father had draped over him was enough. While crowds thronged him, he preferred the company of his small band of disciples over the allure of the limelight. He was easily captivated by the splendor of the lilies in the field to which even the glory of King Solomon could not compare. His speeches were filled with stories not of epic adventures and wars such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, but rather the everyday humdrum of life – the farmer sowing his fields, the woman leavening flour, the merchant seeking goods of immense value, the fisherman casting his net.
Jesus found great delight in the ordinary for in it he saw God. Behind everything true, good, and beautiful, he saw the love and grace of God. This is why even something as small as a mustard seed was wonderful, for it pointed ultimately to the majestic hand of God at work in this world. However, above all these things, Jesus' greatest delight were those moments where he sat in the very presence of God by stealing off into the night to commune with His Father in prayer and meditate upon his word.
What's even more remarkable is that this is the most extraordinary man of all humanity we are talking about! He is God incarnate! He turned water into wine, calmed the storm, walked on water, made the lame walk, restored sight to the blind, delivered people from demons, and raised people from the grave. Nothing can be more unique that these, yet he lived normally. On the cross he carried the sins of the world, and in his death he was placed in a borrowed tomb with no elaborate funeral. His resurrection from the grave, the greatest event in all of history, had no fanfare with legions of angels trumpeting his victory over Satan and the grave across the land. He merely appeared to his disciples in the garden being mistaken for the gardener, on the road as a stranger as they walked, and in their homes as a friend as they talked.
Perhaps the simplicity of Jesus is most visibly demonstrated for us today in the two sacraments he gave to his Church as gifts. He could have given us any number of explicitly ostentatious trophies. However he gave us merely the water, bread, and wine to remind of his love for us. It is these unassuming earthly elements that are a means of grace. It is these elements, so simple and yet so beautifully essential, that are now denied to us as we are unable to gather for worship together on Sundays.
As a minister, I have asked myself countless times these past few days why God would shut the doors of his Church during a time of crisis. I cannot claim to know the answer, nor do I dare claim knowledge of God's mind. However, it seems to me personaly that he is working to make me understand the value of things I took for granted all along. Gathering together on Sundays, partaking in the blessed sacraments, the fellowship of friends, the family conversations around the table, private prayer and meditation — these are true blessings second to none.
It took God just a day to remove the Israelites from Egypt, but He took forty years to remove Egypt from them. Perhaps these strange times are God's means — as the wilderness was to the children of Israel — to wean us from the world and to inculcate within us a heart that will be content with the ordinary. For only a heart truly satisfied with the ordinary can be thankful to God in every situation.
As G. K. Chesterton said it so well all those years ago, "everything is in an attitude of mind … I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."
In our homes, we have now been given time to sit still and recapture our lost wonder for the unassuming and become like giddy children reveling in the ordinary.