We are normal people right? I mean we cook and clean, dress and shop, we moan and gripe, enjoy and grieve
Yet when God knows the very hairs on our Head – we quite often show everyone how amazing things are, or even that our normal things are being used by God. A chapter in Practical theology and Qualitative research inspired this post – that chapter is headed – does the scientist love his wife? – and discusses whether a scientist can feel feelings. In a similar jokey way, I ask the question; ‘Does the youth ministry leader ever do the washing up? you know do the things we all do. Not have fragility and vulnerability – but be normal.
Or trip over the dog, or do something slightly awkward, or mess something up- and no not just for the glory of God, but just do something well ‘meh’ . an ok thing in an ok space with ok people, normal. Normal that isnt a sermon illustration, or social media photo, but just normal.
We can scurry, hurry, produce and portray, but what about the real, the mundane and the well, ordinary.
Not the normal everyday – so we can boast (look at me doing something normal) or look at me having a day off (and highlighting the privilege I have to have a day off, when others in the parish might not work, or work so hard for minimal hours that this is a luxury) But what of the normal, the regular and mundane. The bits of us that aren’t trying to say anything to anyone else than ‘I am no different to you’, and part of my day includes deciding what to have for tea, or hanging out the washing, and fixing a door hinge or going to the supermarket.
Yet its difficult to be normal in the fight for space. In a culture of trying to get attention, where social media itself is defining our very ministry, let alone our theology. And what is presented is fleetingly interpreted and then is the forgotten an hour later, so to make ourselves notice we have to be outlandish, brave or nothing like normal. But underneath the full services, the opinion of a TV show, we all have the normal. The normal fragility, and vulnerability that often doesn’t get shown, when ministry is about producing content to be viewed, or projections to be maintained. I wonder if we fail our fellow travellers along the way, or those who might join in, by trying to hard to be noticed, to be something, to fuel our ego, to create a platform or feel like we’re on a platform – that often no one is really listening to us.
You might think I am something, usually what I am is someone who cannot stop thinking, and you really don’t want my brain. The only thing I am is someone trying to keep learning, and finding a way through life trying to follow Jesus in the everyday. That includes the washing up, cleaning shoes and picking up the dog mess in the garden. Yet don’t be fooled, this is not me trying to be someone by writing this and projecting my normality so that you think something of me by doing so, im not trying to be clever or funny or deliberately self effacing. Its just that normality doesn’t often feature in the who we are. And whilst we tell young people and guide them in the dangers of social media projection and not taking things at face value – so we in ministry might be as guilty. Not everyone else does have the amazing ministry, fascinating blog post or growing church – but actually everyone else does do the washing up, have the expensive car service bill, and do the normal, the ok and sometimes what might be the boring, the stuff of life.
I wonder what the boring moments were between the bits recorded in the Gospels, the long walks between places, the days between the parables, sermons or healings. We might know so much, but so much is not known. Were the disciples still fishing on Fridays? Or who got the food, and decided where to stay – or was Jesus the ultimate travel companion/guide who made all the decisions. Dd they wash or change or sleep in weird places – what did they do to relax or was the way of discipleship for the 12 all go-go-go for 3 years. There was maybe more normal that exceptional with Jesus.
Yes we might avoid the comparison trap, and avoid the social media churn. Yes you might think of me in a certain way for my ramblings. But i wouldnt. We need to do more real, more true and more honest. Behind this post is a person who writes and thinks, who is trying and struggling, who spends many hours a week washing up, walking the dog, washing, cooking and the normal things. Lets embrace being normal and real especially with ourselves and also the young people.
(ps practical theology and qualitative research is by swinton & mowat, 2010)