On Being Ordinarily Crazy

Stephen painting with little eyes watching.

Stephen painting with little eyes watching.

I bought my first home six years ago.  The entire house was painted a horrible hospital-white.  With one request, a team of people was mobilized, and in the course of three days, seven rooms were painted with nine different colors.  That’s crazy radical.  I remember my friend Stephen, a brand-new first time father, on his knees in my kitchen, rolling paint onto my walls.  I bet he has forgotten that he did that at all.  I haven’t.  I think of him, and the twenty other people who were also here, as I walk through my house.  Every wall has a name attached to it.  I’m looking at the black accent wall in my office right now and thinking of my friend Amanda, who spent her free evening painting with me while her husband watched the kids. That miniscule gold spot on my carpet in my bedroom? That’s Jeff. He stepped in the paint and tracked it everywhere and tried to clean it up before it dried and I saw it.  He got it all except that little spot.

Jeff and his gold-bottomed shoes.

Jeff and his gold-bottomed shoes.

I love that spot.  The faint texture on the wall in Little Man’s bedroom?  That’s Tonya, who used a bad roller to put a layer of paint on.  You wouldn’t be able to see it, but I can.  The beautiful green shade in my living room?  That’s Matt, who ran out and bought a brand-new can of paint at full price when we rolled on the reduced-price mixed-tint one I had gotten and discovered that it was the hue of an army bunker.

My house is painted in the power of what a group of ordinary people can do when they serve.  To them it was nothing, a secret service, if you will.  To me, it was a home and a community and sold out crazy.  That does not  look ordinary to me at all.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Because here’s the thing: what one person sees as an easy thing, a simple way to bless someone else, is monumental in others’ eyes.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

Most of the time, our lives are made up of doing things that look ordinary, even the way we serve.  I figure out what to make for dinner instead of serving cereal or pizza again.   I schedule a dentist appointment for Little Man.  I share carpooling with the neighborhood moms. Ordinary things.

Then every once in a while, someone we know does something that we think is “crazy”: they plan a mission trip.  Or they host a child for the summer.  Or they choose to work for a nonprofit full-time even though that means they need to raise support for their salary every year.

But the funny thing is, for the person doing it, it’s not crazy.  It doesn’t feel sold out or radical.   It actually feels pretty logical—it’s what makes sense.  It’s the logical progression of a lot of little faithful things that add up to something that looks crazy one the outside.

Take my friend Sarah.  Sarah was in college with me and was a math major.  She liked to camp and was outdoorsy and had spent some summers as a camp counselor.  Our senior year, she found out about 2f826edbef8bc4be27cafd2413be7edc0an organization called Youth Dynamics, which provides outdoor adventure trips for youth groups in the Pacific Northwest.  They take the kids white water rafting or rappelling or on some other outdoor challenge and talk about trust and community and the need for support and all the things you learn flying down a river in a piece of rubber.  And they tell the kids where the true source of trust and joy and community is.   They reach out to the local schools, too, looking for kids who might not be reached through a youth group.  Sarah saw this and thought, “What a great internship for me to do the summer after my senior year while I start looking for jobs!”  Twelve years later, and she’s never left.  She’s now a full-time staff member, working as the Support Ministry Coach, where she helps others raise funds for service there.  You see, Youth Dynamics is completely funded by the donations of others.  Every staff member is required to raise yearly support to provide a salary for their work there.  To me, that’s sold-out crazy.  To Sarah, it’s been a logical progression of what she’s been called to do.  It’s ordinary.

I see hosting a child as rather ordinary.  It’s such a small sacrifice.  What’s a summer?  The prospect of having another child here is already bringing more joy to Little Man and me than can be expressed.  We’ve waited for so long for this; the idea that this could happen in less than six short months is beyond thrilling.  I don’t think that any service we might provide to this child is beyond my ordinary.  This is just what I do.  You might paint walls.  Sarah climbs mountains (literally).  I host, and possibly adopt, a foreign child.  How is there a difference?  It’s simply the perspective.

I’m not hosting a child to be noticed.  I’m not doing it to catch people’s attention or draw accolades to myself.  I’m doing it because it fits so clearly into the vision I have been given and the way that I believe God wants me to use my resources.  I might not have much…but I have time and I have space and I have a hope that I can be used.

And actually, the fact that I have to “draw attention” to what I am doing makes me highly uncomfortable.  If I had my way, I would not be telling anyone I was doing this.  I would simply show up with an extra child by my side and say, “Hi.  Have you met my host child?”  I wouldn’t need anyone or anything to do what I want or to serve God.  By nature, I am a fairly private person and I don’t like asking for help.

And therein lies the beautiful irony.  I can’t do this by myself.  “Crazy” ideas almost always require “ordinary” help.  Someone buys a hoagie, or gives me a little pocket money toward my goal…pretty ordinary.  But that’s not ordinary to me—it is a superman-level miracle that I cannot supply on my own.  I can’t do this ordinary-to-me thing without their ordinary-for-them help.  One cannot, and does not, exist without the other.

Sarah can’t serve the way she does without the support of ordinary people like me.  I can’t host a child without others’ help.  I don’t know of any kind of “crazy” service that can happen outside of the support of a community of people.  That’s one of the brilliant things about serving.  We might think we do it in secret or that it’s our journey or that no one but the Lord notices.  But that’s simply not true.  Our service builds a community in faith and in encouragement, whether we are painting a wall or rappelling down a rock face.   And sometimes, we get to do both.  And really, that’s pretty amazing: our service is can only happen within a community, as we each individually follow the example of the one who ultimately served in the craziest way possible.

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