The Magical and the Mundane

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Each week, it seems, I experience a class session that seems magical — filled with intellectual tension, unbridled curiosity, stimulating questions, rich spontaneity, and seemingly life-shaping learning. I inevitably walk away with my mind racing over fresh terrain and new ideas, rejoicing in my God-given role as lead learner. Of course, growth is mainly measurable over time, so there’s no way I can evaluate how much myself or my students are growing or changing through a single class session. But there’s no denying that there are some classes that seem to brim and buzz with mind-expanding and soul-imprinting moments.

And then there are those other class sessions — where I seem to be droning on and on, where the room seems too warm or too dim, where my material feels weak, where my presentation seems uncreative, where our activities seem listless, where I’m laboring to keep students’ attention, and where I find myself wondering if even a single book or assignment or exercise required by the syllabus will have an effect that lasts longer than the short hours in which the students will complete them.

In the very same week, sometimes on consecutive days, I have these opposite classroom experiences. And these ups and downs are not necessarily due to the quality of the students or my level of preparation or the topics we’re talking about. Sure, there are significant factors I’m learning to pin down and adjust, but there are also many x-factors that remain as mysterious as the wind.

Regardless of the why, the what is clear: Teaching, I continue to learn, is filled with both the magical and the mundane.

And so teaching, like so many other specialized activities, is just like the rest of life. I will never accept mundane-feeling classes, and I’ll always labor to cultivate rich learning environments that engage and challenge and shape and inspire. But I also continue learning that both the magical and the mundane are simply fundamental ingredients of life. And faith. And work. And friendship. And marriage. And exercise. And parenting. And study. And leisure.

God has not designed life as one long magical moment, to be lived by adrenaline junkies who can only be content when sparks are flying and the stage is lit.

There is, however, a harvest on the far horizon, and the the risen and ripened fruit we’ll enjoy on that day will far surpass the fleeting magic of even the best moments we experience in this life. On that day, what matters will not be whether our lives were one long crescendo of ecstasy but whether we lived a biblical rhythm of faithfulness.

After all, every farmer knows that those daily rhythms are where the magic is truly found: dirt daily plowed, seed slowly sown, rain gently falling, sun warmly shining — day after day after day, week after week after week, year after year after year. Then one day, whether in decades or just days, we’ll lift our weary eyes from the land and wrest our weary hands from the plow, and we’ll realize that the magic of God’s work was happening in the mundanity of our weakness.

And so I seek to march with the company of the faithful each day, putting one step in front of the other, seeking my God and serving my church and loving my wife and parenting my kids and teaching my classes and counseling my students, not getting addicted to the highs and not getting depressed by the lows, but standing firmly in my union with Christ. This, I continue finding, is the safest place to stand. This, I keep learning, is the power of the gospel. And this, I preach to myself, is the best seat in the house for watching God raise up mighty harvests through both the magical and the mundane.


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