Extraordinary vs Ordinary: A Holy Cage Match


My friend Bryson recently spent a week reading women’s blogs and perusing Pinterest doing “research” for a project at work. I’m sure he learned whatever it was he was trying to learn (in addition, I suppose, to pennant-making and gluten-free cupcake baking). He also learned this, which he shared on Twitter:

"Today’s blog research theory: Some people want their lives to be as intricate and exciting as a novel. Every day.”

I read that and wondered, “Do I?”

He tweeted that days ago, and would you believe I’m still trying to figure out an answer?


I watched Dead Poets Society in middle school; Mr. Keating was my favorite teacher. In my mind, he seems more real than most of my actual teachers, of whom I remember only a handful. I can see him standing on that desk “to see differently.” I see him scrawling the sentence, “I sound my barbaric yawp” on the chalkboard. I loved this. I love this. 

I watched the Carpe Diem speech today on YouTube. “Make your lives extraordinary.” And as he whispered those words into waiting ears, my ears itched and my fingers, too. And now I’m writing. Because I want to seize the day. And because he’s stirred me to thinking about extraordinary again. 

Who wouldn’t want to be extraordinary?

Turns out, lots of people. At least, that’s what they’re saying.

Blaise Pascal wrote, “Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.”

Anne Voskamp writes in her author’s bio: “The life you want is really as close as giving thanks to God. Slow down and taste and see, see that the Lord is good. Life is not an emergency—it’s holy, ordinary, amazing grace.” 

That feels true. And completely at odds with the carpe diem, hurry-to-greatness, make like extraordinary in Dead Poets.

Which one is right?




Either life must be made extraordinary or it is extraordinary and we simply open our eyes to the fact. It’s an “either,” right?


Next week, I’m planning to devote every post to sorting out this tension (and the tangents the sorting requires).

I want to know, Should I shoot for extraordinary or celebrate being ordinary?

To prepare, I want to ask you some questions. Answer one of them, answer all of them, just be sure to answer. PLEASE share your thoughts in the comments. 

  • What does extraordinary look like to you? What kinds of people/moments/places do you think of when you hear the word “extraordinary”?
  • Do you feel pressure to be “extraordinary” in a way that frustrates you?
  • What does it mean to celebrate ordinary life? What’s valuable in it? Is it the same as celebrating “brokenness”?

I have more questions than answers right now, but I’m happily praying and thinking and writing AND anticipating your replies!