We caught up with lots of telly over Christmas including the MasterChef Final. We hadn’t kept up with the whole series but in lots of ways that isn’t really necessary. You know there will be a combination of barking, beaming and wincing from the judges on the basis that nothing short of perfection is good enough. You know there will be some poor sous chef convinced that the way to make their mark is to find a new flavour combination only to discover that mackerel and Turkish delight don’t belong together on a plate. Ultimately you know that someone will prevail and it will be quite moving to see their creativity flourish.
Lots of telly is like this – competition based, allowing us to watch as voyeurs as many dreams are crushed on the way to one person winning the crown. As special as it is to see someone come out on top it’s built on the fact that most people don’t.
Maybe from time to time we all get our version of that triumphant moment. A couple of months back I got a new job in the Council in Sheffield, back in the service area where I’d had a role deleted five years earlier. I knew this was a big opportunity and one that wouldn’t be repeated in a hurry. I got the job and it was lovely to share the news with so many people who have supported me so faithfully.
There is a danger of course in chasing the high of the big moment. The big reveal can be hugely significant whether it getting a job, getting the house you’ve been looking for, an accepted marriage proposal, news of a pregnancy etc. It’s great to have these moment but by definition most of life isn’t like that – most of life is dealing with the ‘what comes next’ – doing the job, decorating the house, building the marriage, bringing up the child etc. All of that can seem a bit less exciting. The risk is of people constantly chasing the next thing, never settling to invest, never learning to be content, which what they’ve been given.
Somehow we have to find the balance of doing the everyday well as well as being open to what’s next. We have to learn the art of the ordinary – making the most of what we have so that chasing the new doesn’t become a drug that means we never do anything very well.
There’s a couple of things my Vicar, Mick Woodhead says frequently that are helpful here.
One of Mick’s go to passages is 1 Thessalonians 5, which includes the instruction to ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. Giving thanks is part of the DNA of our church. It’s a good habit, which builds healthy perspective. It helps us to see what we have and not focus on what we don’t. Elsewhere Psalm 118 tells us ‘this is the day the Lord has made’ and we should ‘rejoice and be glad in it’.
Thankfulness doesn’t deny needs and challenges, it just re-frames them by us reminding us that we have good things in our lives. By making ourselves think about these good things we can often see how far we’ve already come.
The next thing Mick often speaks about is the new thing that God is doing 1. This is on the basis that God is alive, active and creative, constantly looking to see how things can be better and the part we can play in this. The difference here is that rather than restlessly trying to make things happen and scale the next peak we walk with God, thankful and expectant that he has a plan.
At its simplest the plan every day is that he blesses us with his presence so that we can be a blessing to others. He wants to breathe life into the ordinary so that, as I wrote about last week, we don’t crash to earth when any particular event or festivity ends.
Longer term it is better to see God’s plan as something he seeks to unfurl in our lives rather than expecting that someday it will be all be somehow different. God’s heart is to make sense of the people we are, to use our gifts and grow our character.
Most of us will never have a high profile victory and normal life isn’t made up of mountain top breakthroughs. The point is that day by day God wants to help us to make the very best of the life we have.