By Beth Hautala
I sat in the quiet early morning darkness with my infant daughter. It was the third time I’d been up with her since I’d fallen into bed the night before, and I was tired. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’ve actually slept in the last nine years – not since my son, the oldest of four, was born. But my baby’s long eyelashes against her firm little cheek made me catch my breath. As they always do. And it was at that very moment a robin chose to burst into song outside the nursery window. It was early spring, and he was its harbinger. He sang for the sun alone. He sang because he was created to do so. Without applause. And I marveled at his courage.
It takes courage to do the ordinary. This has been a slowly-dawning realization for me.
Our culture praises the risk-takers. The adventurers. The ones who leave it all behind and risk life and limb for great causes and glorious endeavors. I praise them myself – I admire them. Sometimes I wish I could be them.
But we are brave. It takes courage to rise in the wee hours of the night to meet the needs of others. It takes courage to make all the daily meals, which are more often met with complaints rather than thanks. It takes courage to fold acres of laundry and match hundreds of pairs of little white socks. It takes courage to plant your heart in the lives of the people you love, knowing fully that the gift may never be truly recognized.
Even in Christian culture we have a tendency to magnify the extraordinary and minimize the ordinary. It’s laughable, really, because Christ Himself lived a beautiful ordinary life – dust and sweat-covered, selfless and giving, mess-ridden and thankless. He spent His days with children and the child-like. He washed feet and mended hearts. He cooked meals and carried those who were too tired or too weak to go on alone. He chased away nightmares, and He chased away the night. And yet, when it comes to my own life, I get hung up on the fact that I’ve not “done great things” for God. As if I could out-live Christ.
But this thought – this fear of an unaccomplished story, a mundane life – is shifting in me. And a quieter, deeper resonance of Truth is ringing where my frustrations used to lie. What if this ordinary life is a thing of glory and greatness? What if the very act of setting myself aside, day after day after day, is the highest calling any of us can claim? I would die for them – for these loves of mine, who drain me of energy, sleep, and brain cells. But even more, I would live. Not at the cost of myself, because it would do them little good for me to lose myself in their existence, but as a gift rather than a loss. My great gift. My God-honoring could be the extraordinary wonder of a mundane life filled with everyday grace and courage.
What acts of bravery do you have to offer in the midst of your beautiful ordinary life/ What early hours are yours to give up as praise? What songs were you made to sing in the pre-dawn darkness? What unseen gift, what sacrifices, what catch-of-breath can you offer? It takes great courage. And it is a thing of great beauty. That robin sings, never knowing I hear him – perhaps he sings for an audience of One. His Creator. And I’m trying to do the same. In my sleeplessness. In my hours before morning arrives… in all of my ordinariness.
Beth Hautala is a former associate magazine editor, and copy writer. She now owns and operates Red House Media, an advertising agency with her husband. They life in Minnesota with their four children. Waiting for Unicorns, out from Philomel/Penguin, is Beth’s first novel.
This piece was originally published in the ‘Year of the Spouse’ Journal.