The ordinary

We used to have a little dog named Dabo. We named him after Dabo Swinney, the head coach of the Clemson Tigers football team. Dabo (the dog) was a Bichon Frise. Not a yapper, thankfully, and lots of fun. He never met a stranger, and he especially adored kids. We ended up “adopting” him out to our daughter’s family in Mississippi. They’re fans of Florida State so, as you may guess, they renamed our dog Jimbo (after Jimbo Fisher). Yes, Jimbo’s the head coach of the FSU football team. At least our dog is still in the ACC.

Dabo regularly taught me lessons. One was not to be in a hurry. Whenever I took him outside to go to the bathroom, he would just kind of wander aimlessly around the yard, taking his fool time, smelling everything, chasing lizards, looking around, and sniffing the air. Finally he would get down to business.

From Dabo I learned enjoyment of the ordinary. On sunny afternoons I would go outside with Dabo and he would find a spot in the backyard and just…sit. I’d say, “Let’s go over here, Dabo.” And he’d glance at me, turn away, and…lie down in the grass. It’s like he was saying, “Umm, I don’t think so. Why are you in a hurry? Don’t you want to just stay here a few minutes and feel the sunshine?” I couldn’t resist. So I’d walk over, plop myself down next to Dabo, stroke his back, and enjoy the ordinary.

I hate to confess this, but I apparently needed a dog to teach me this lesson. Otherwise I don’t know if I’d ever stop and feel the sunshine on my face.

I’m reading Zack Eswine’s book for pastors, titled Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry As a Human Being. It’s a wonderful but convicting book about enjoying the ordinary. He says we ministers are, generally speaking, driven people. We are always hankering after some “significant” work, chasing some “God-sized” dream, trying to change the world, thinking that we have to move on to some exotic place where we can “make a difference.” Problem is, we are not God, though we secretly fancy ourselves to be. We are not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. We are actually pretty much…a mess. And anyway, God usually chooses to work through ordinary people in ordinary places.

He who called you to where you are declares that you needn’t repent of being in one place at one time. You needn’t repent of doing only a long, small work in an extraordinary but unknown place. Standing long in one place allows the roots to deepen.

I wish I’d read Eswine’s book years ago when, as a young pastor, I felt “called” away from my small, rural church to a city I knew nothing about but where, I thought, I would really make a difference for the kingdom. I don’t know, maybe I was called there. But looking back from Dabo’s perspective, maybe I was in too much of a hurry.

The prophet Jeremiah told his friend and secretary Baruch, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5).

That’s what I heard Dabo saying to me in the backyard on sunny afternoons. Standing long in one place allows the roots to deepen.

 

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