G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was a journalist in London for more than 30 years. During that time, he wrote 4000 essays and authored over 100 books. Arguably the most prolific writer of his time, he was a truly extraordinary person.
For one, he was extraordinary looking. Standing 6’4” and weighing well over 300 pounds, Chesterton was larger than life. He often had a cigar in his mouth, a cape over his shoulders, a cane in his hand, and he wore tiny glasses that pinched his nose. He was a site to behold.
He was also extraordinarily absentminded. Usually lost and/or late for his next appointment, Chesterton could rarely remember where he was supposed to be or what he was supposed to be doing. He once famously telegrammed his wife writing, “At the market, where am I supposed to be?”
Finally, he was extraordinarily brilliant. For example, it is reported that he dictated his books and never rewrote a single word, not even having his secretary read back to him what he had dictated. A celebrated Christian apologist, Chesterton was famous for showing up late to debates, often with his clothing disheveled and his mind distracted. Yet, sparring against the brightest thinkers of his day, we would easily win over the hearts and minds of his listeners.
Chesterton’s extraordinariness notwithstanding, my favorite quote of his is about the value of being “ordinary.” Chesterton wrote, “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.”
We live a world that pursues extraordinary at all costs. Adults drive themselves into the ground and parents pressure their children all in an effort to be extraordinary. Yet, Chesterton claims that the “most extraordinary thing” is embracing God’s design in something as ordinary as the family and reveling in our role within it. Sadly though, the most extraordinary life is often dismissed simply because it appears so ordinary. It’s not valued because it is so easily acquired. But that is the reality with all of God’s greatest gifts. They are free.
If we’re not careful our pursuit of the extraordinary can actually lead to our destruction. How many have pursued the extraordinary only to shipwreck their lives and families? In the end our call is not to be extraordinary. Our call is to be faithful, to bring God glory in whatever we do.
I know that I will never write like Chesterton. However, the older I get the more clearly I see the value of embracing the ordinary. Ultimately, embracing ordinary makes life about God’s glory, rather than about one’s accomplishments and frees me to enjoy my gifts and calling. In the end, it is the freedom brought by embracing my ordinariness that allows me to write, as well as lead, without fear. No longer do I feel the burden to say something brilliant. Rather, I am free to offer my gifts, simply answering my calling and realizing that some people will connect with what I have to share and others will not. I write simply to add my voice to the choir, and I leave the rest up to God.
One to one coaching can help us in distinguish between a dangerous pursuit of the extraordinary and a diligent pursuit of the ordinary.