Re-Examining the Ordinary
The interior of an airport isn’t necessarily the dream location to spend hours, yet many of us find ourselves doing so because of the travel capabilities airplanes give us. We often try to fill layover time with the constant scroll, eating the overpriced food, or sitting in a cold metal chair that seems to be made specifically for our discomfort.
In *The Life We Are Looking For* Andy Crouch describes his experience in the death zone of the Chicago Airport where he finally had enough and chose to spend his time differently. He explains how he had been in lots of meetings for days and now as he traveled home he was looking for a way to get exercise. His solution was to walk the terminals, but beyond the mindless strolling, he wanted to spend his time doing something that would bring life to his soul. His solution was the following, “I had recently been thinking about one of the most striking ways that the Hebrew Scriptures describe human beings: ‘made in the image of God,’ male and female, all part of one human family. Radical when it was first written down in Genesis, and still challenging today, it’s an idea worth pondering. It occurred to me that I could attempt a kind of ambulatory act of contemplation. As I walked, I decided, I would try to take note of each person I passed. I would pay as much attention to each of them as I could—as much, that is, without seeming like some kind of creepy airport stalker—and say to myself as I saw each one, *image bearer*.” (Crouch, 2022).
What a compelling exercise.
To move beyond the ordinary of an uninspiring airport and reclaim God’s vision for the people He created, to bear His image.
We all have our airport scenario. For some it is the daily commute to work, for others, it’s the grocery store aisles, and for those who work from home, it’s those square boxes of people you meet with on zoom.
In Acts 3 Peter and John find themselves in a similar situation. They are on their way to a prayer meeting which if you study the early church, many believe was a daily routine for followers of Jesus. They seemed to have morning, mid-day, and evening prayer times together. For more information on that check out *Praying with the Church* by Scott McKnight. All of that to say, this was a routine for these two disciples, but they didn’t let the ordinary routine get in the way of working with the Spirit. Peter and John stumble upon a crippled man unable to walk. The man asks them for money and the Scriptures say, “Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’” The man goes on to be healed and joins them in the prayer meeting praising God for what had happened. This man's life was changed forever.
A few exciting things about this story: first, Peter looks straight at him. He didn't brush him off and move on. He doesn’t ignore him, but he looks at him with the understanding of who he is, *“image bearer”.* The awareness of seeing the man in the right light moved Peter to action. The man was just looking for money, but Peter addressed the man's deepest desire, to be healed. And not just physically healed, but spiritually restored to a relationship with the God who created him. The man is healed physically and is invited to a prayer meeting centered on the God who gave Peter the ability to cure him. Not only that, but the people around this scene were filled with “wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:10). So a man is healed physically, committed to following Jesus, and others are compelled in a profound way. All because Peter re-examined the ordinary.
Many Christians desire to have an experience like this but feel helpless about where to start, let alone the emotional capacity to see everyone in such a deep way. I can hear the critics, “I’m just going to work” “Kids are waiting for me at home to cook dinner” “I barely know the people on my Zoom, we haven’t even met in person” “How am I supposed to re-examine these everyday common instances.”
It starts with your heart's desire.
Charles Spurgeon when teaching people how to share the gospel and bring people to know Jesus said, “It must be heart-work with you, brethren, far more than head-work, if you are to win many souls. Admits all your studies, mind that you never let your spiritual life get dry.” (Spurgeon, 1895). He understood that if your heart is cold for people it doesn’t matter how much striving you do you won’t see much change.
When Jesus looked out on a crowd, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36). It was compassion that brought Jesus to death on the cross. Maybe we need to find our compassion for others again.
In C.S. Lewis’s essay “The Weight of Glory”, the idea of people's worth is explored in great detail. Lewis explains how the people we interact with are so much more than the uninteresting people we settle for. With the theology “*image bearer”,* in mind he says, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people.”
What a weight to carry.
A weight Lewis says can only be carried by humility. So maybe that's where we start; by humbling ourselves to the burden of the world we live in. We are in enemy territory and there is only God’s kingdom advancing or the enemy killing, stealing, and destroying. So we must be sobered to this reality and if we find ourselves numb then we must ask for God’s heart.
The Lord is eager to answer prayers that align with His mission in the world. I will warn you though. These are the kind of prayers that will wreck you. They will bring you to tears for your neighbors, coworkers, and the strangers you pass on the street, but they are also the most fulfilling prayers because you are beginning to be devoted to what God has called you to.
Even just starting with Andy Crouch’s exercise will impact you. Listen to what happened to him, “By the end of my walk, I was overwhelmed in a way I had not expected. I had passed people in every stage of life and health, of an uncountable number of national and ethnic backgrounds, some traveling together, most seemingly alone. The stories I would never learn behind each of those faces, the years of life that had shaped their poster and gait, the possibility and futility each one had known and would know—all set to the relentless soundtrack of those two words, *image bearer*—carried and emotional and spiritual weight that I can still feel, years later.” (Crouch, 2022).
So I want to ask you: what would occur if we re-examined the ordinary to see the deep beauty and possibility of everyone we interact with? What would happen to us, others, and the world?
Let's embark on the journey to find out.