“You don’t realize how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Sounds a lot like last week’s post, Stripped of Chaos. However, humbly I admit that Lewis does a far more thorough and creative job of warning against this sneaky syndrome. Business, turmoil, digital content, hectic schedules, deadlines, productivity, expectations, urgency, all lend to distract us from the one purpose of our life.
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Westmister Shorter Catechism
Most of our hurry has become ordinary. But interestingly, another word for ordinary is humdrum, which Webster’s relates to boring, mundane, drab, blah, lifeless, insipid.
In Lewis’ book, Dear Uncle Screwtape, tells his protege a story about his golden years as a master tempter. He once had a patient hungry for knowledge. This man found himself in the museum feasting on books and historic truths. Suddenly, this ambitious young man was drawn to a fundamental truth, a truth that threatened the fabric of deception Screwtape had laid. In the quiet of a museum, the calm of solitude, what recourse did the demon have to distract his patient? Only the ordinary.
“I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch.”
The subject of interest was much to important to tackle on an empty stomach, so persuaded by his grumbling stomach, the man laid aside his book and left the museum in search of food. As soon as his shoes clipped the pavement, the man caught sight of a bus, then an advertisement, and heard a newsboy’s urgent call.
“I had got him into an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head while shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of ‘real life’ (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all ‘that sort of thing’ just couldn’t be true.”
Ordinary chaos. Daily distraction. Buses, newspapers, hunger. I’m well aware of how distracting my humdrum life can be. In fact, I am sitting, even now, at Starbucks to write this post, because I find the dailiness of home distracting. There is that hot-pink, sticky note t0-do list on the refrigerator that condemns me for sitting down to write. At home, there is a pair of sappy puppy eyes that accuse me of neglect (even though he already went of a 2 mile walk this morning). There is a hungry husband, a perpetually full laundry hamper and for some reason I am compelled to attend to the phone while within the four walls of my home. If I am this easily drawn away from my work, how easily am I lured away from my God?
If what deserves my full, momentary attention can be avoided, do I tire of and avoid the God that deserves my constant admiration?
Do not imagine me waggling my finger in your face admonishing, “Shouldn’t you be reading your Bible right now?”
But don’t you wonder how Job ever came to say, “I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food.”? Job 23:12
And Jeremiah, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” Jer. 15:16
Jesus is an unordinary joy, an extraordinary magnetism. There may be a time of tasting. Like trying a new food, it requires digging into something that might look a little bland. But do not turn back to your common diet. To whet one’s appetite on Jesus is to never be able to get enough.