Faithful Mediocrity


It’s the end of May at the writing of this article and I’ve started receiving graduation notices in the mail. I imagine you have too. It’s that time of year again where we, as a community, get to bless our young men and women into the next chapter of their lives. What a privilege!

It’s also that time of year when we get to express our hopes and dreams for those leaving high school for their next chapter. We say things like, “You can do anything you put your mind to!”, “dream big!”, and “you’re going to do amazing things!” And we hope they’ll make a significant impact on the world around them. Ideally, a larger impact than what we have made ourselves.

But you know what always seems harder than doing amazing things and dreaming big in this world? Living simple lives of what I call “faithful mediocrity.” Faithful mediocrity is HARD. What is faithful mediocrity? Glad you asked! Faithful mediocrity is doing normal things that aren’t that amazing and that will never be written about in history books, and doing them really, really well. Faithful mediocrity is trying your hardest to be married to the same person for your whole life. Faithful mediocrity is making a marriage work when it’s fun and when it’s hard. Faithful mediocrity is going to work every day and contributing something to the larger world—maybe not a big thing—but some thing. Faithful mediocrity is nurturing and maintaining friendships and family relationships through phone calls, texts, the occasional in-person chat, or a short road trip now and then. Faithful mediocrity is fixing the car when it’s broken, cleaning the house when the dust bunnies have turned into dust dinosaurs, and sitting down to a meal occasionally with people you love. Faithful mediocrity is giving of yourself, not so you can change the world, but maybe so you can change that person’s day just a little bit. I remember when I graduated high school (then college, then seminary…), how many people expressed hope that I’d do “amazing things.” I’m still waiting to do “amazing things." And the older I get, the more it looks like “amazing” is going to have to wait. But also the older I get, I find myself being much more interested in striving for faithful mediocrity. That’s hard enough, and if I achieve faithful mediocrity by the time God calls me home, I’ll consider my life well lived.

I’m reminded that in scripture, God never calls us to do “amazing things” (that’s a human need, not a divine need). But God does call us to be faithful. And what does faithfulness look like? Colossians 3:12-14 has the best definition I’ve ever seen, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” I think after I’ve achieved that level of faithfulness, I’ll start working on those “amazing things.” How about you? In the meantime, I hope for faithful mediocrity for all those moving on to their next chapter of life. May you live in your next chapter with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. May your relationships be strong, and when they’re not, may you work on them. May your friendships be life-giving, and when they’re not, may you reconcile. May your car work well enough. May your homes be clean enough. May your work be good enough. And every once in a while, may you sit down at a table with those you love. If that’s what you’ve achieved by the time God calls you home, you’ve done enough. Well done good and faithful servants.