That would be a good name for a coffee shop, wouldn’t it? “Average Joe.” No fancy gurgling, spurting machines, no exotic syrups, no froth, no outsize paper cups. Just solid ceramic mugs, maybe some cream and sugar for those who must, and fresh-brewed, full-bodied black coffee. I remember drinking coffee like this in local diners back in the days when I lived in New York City. Getting to sit there with a steaming mug, solid in my hand, enjoying the wake up.
These days it seems, nothing is permitted to be average or ordinary. Even the hype seems to be hyped. Even when it comes to people. Your day must be filled with extraordinary achievement; you have to be fabulous at your fabulous job, exercise must be exhilarating as you tone your perfectly healthy body. Your recreation has to be exceptional and fulfilling. The things you own are to be the best, the newest, the fastest. The food you eat is cutting edge, strictly conforming to the latest “science” of nutrition. And on and on…
Ordinary is just not allowed.
Ever drive through the wheat fields of Nebraska? Thousands of acres of wheat ready for harvest, able to feed millions of people. Know what you’re looking at? Billions (trillions?) of ordinary kernels of wheat, each one indistinguishable from the others, each one completely capable of fulfilling its purpose.
I am a decidedly average Joe, so ordinary that, like a kernel of wheat, no one would notice me in a crowd. Slightly overweight, often under-motivated, married for over five decades to an average wife, two kids, three grandkids. I live in an average house in an average subdivision, drive an average twelve-year-old car. My favorite meals are any home-made soup, meatloaf or pasta with home-made sauce. I play an inferior game of golf. There are millions of people just like me: ordinary.
But ordinary is essential. The nurse, the cop, or the UPS driver, who gets out of bed in the morning, puts on ordinary clothes and goes to work is essential. So is the mailman, the grocery shelf-stocker, or the auto technician doing his tenth oil change of the day. It’s not the names in the headlines, the ones who grace magazine covers, who make the world go, it’s the faceless ordinary people. Oh sure, the guy or gal who comes up with the vaccine to cure COVID-19 will deserve our admiration and gratitude, but it will be the nurses and doctors that will get it to the people.
That’s the way God intended it to be. He put a man and a woman in a garden to tend and keep it. The most commonly used image in the Bible is that of a shepherd. Even Jesus was raised, not in the palace of a king, but in the home of a carpenter. The twelve Apostles were not learned scholars or priests, mostly they were fishermen. Martin Luther taught that every vocation is worthy, an appointment from the Creator. In the Apostle Paul’s description of the body (the church) there are no unimportant parts, The ordinary is essential.
When I wrote my book, “Aimless Life, Awesome God”, I could have sub-titled it, “An account of an ordinary, not too remarkable life”.If you read it, you might be tempted to say, “So what? I’ve had a more interesting life than this guy. What’s so interesting about a man schlepping through the years like he did?” But what is extraordinary about my life, and yours, is how God uses us to accomplish His purposes, to tend His garden.
Ordinary is essential. And so are you. Let’s have a cup of coffee and think it over.