The Ordinary Shape of An Abundant Life

The Ordinary Shape of an Abundant Life by Leslie Ann Jones

Early Friday morning I got a text message from my mom telling me that their next door neighbor had died during the night. Though he was older, he certainly wasn't old, and his death came as a surprise. He had been sick, and, feeling cold and tired, he turned in early for the night. When his wife checked on him a few hours later, he had slipped away.

A few nights later, I found myself unable to sleep, so I got up and read Jojo Moyes' Me Before You, a novel that can only be described as poignant and heartbreaking. The book opens with a horrible accident. Will Traynor is hailing a taxi near his London home when he unwittingly steps in front of a motorcycle hurtling toward him. In an instant, the life that Will had known, a life of moxie and determination, adventure and success, drifts away like a vapor in the wind.

I can't stop thinking about it.

My mind keeps mulling over these two unrelated stories. One the very real story of a good and kind man that I have known for 20 years. The other a made-up tale of a man whose life looked nothing like my neighbor's. But despite their obvious differences, the stories have a commonality that I just can't get past. They are a stark reminder that life can tilt in the space between one breath and the next. That we honestly don't know what the future holds. That everything really can, and oftentimes does, change in an instant.

The prophet Isaiah said that all people are like grass and that our beauty is like that of flowers, which, as anyone who has ever potted a plant knows, is quite temporary. Flowers bloom once a season, and their brilliance is stunning, but it's also fleeting. It lasts for just a moment. And then it's gone.

The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:7-8

It's in light of this frailty that the second half of Isaiah's statement gains its meaning. Our lives are over and done with in the blink of an eye, but God? He's forever. His word? It's reliable. 

And the word that I'm clinging to today is the word of Jesus, who said that he came not just that we may have life, but that we may have it abundantly. John 10:10

I think sometimes we read this verse and focus on the end game. The abundant life he's speaking of must be eternity, right? Well, the short answer is yes. Eternal life is by its very definition abundant. But abundant life doesn't start after death. It starts now

All of this has been tumbling around in my mind and leading me to scrutinize my life in the light of the truth. I mean, let's be honest. My life is a lot of things, but abundant?

It's an altogether ordinary life, but it's a good life. It's not always exciting. It's rarely adventurous. But it is full of the goodness of God. And it's my prayer that as I grow in the grace and truth of the Lord, that he will continue to fill my life from the wellspring that never runs dry. You see, in abundant life, God takes our oh-so-human frailty and brokenness and replaces it with his very own indomitable vitality. It draws its abundance from Him.

An abundant life is one that is so filled with the grace of God that it spills over its boundaries and nips at the toes of bystanders. An abundant life is one that is so bright with the light of Christ that it pierces the surrounding darkness and beckons others to safety. An abundant life is one that is so overwhelmed by the goodness of God that it simply cannot hold it in. It serves others. It loves well. It brings joy. It seeks the greater good. And it always, always, always points to Jesus.

Abundant life looks different for all of us because we're all beautifully unique. There is no one-size-fits-all picture of an abundant life. The fullness of life that God has prepared for me to lean into is not the same as the fullness that he has prepared for you. It's as different as our personalities and as individualized as our fingerprints. 

But it's also the same. Because if we're living abundantly, then it means that we're each allowing God to fill us with his love, light, grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, and truth so that we may in turn share the bounty with others. And the only way that can happen is if we surrender our lives to him and allow him to fill it as he sees fit.

If you're doing that, then I'd say that your life, no matter how ordinary, is abundant indeed. Now go live it.

Until next time, grace and peace.