Last night I stole a few minutes to sit up and write in my room, before sleep entirely overpowered me. I lit my candles, soaked in the atmosphere of being surrounded by books, gave my corgis a pat, and started to write more of the fifth and final DK book, Splitting Heirs.
Charlie and Turner, two of my characters from the Dreaded King series, got themselves into an interesting conversation. It started simply enough, Turner Hitchley (the outgoing, bad-grammarian, fiery tempered, ten-year-old orphan from the streets) got lonely as his best friend and protector is currently out on king’s business. So when Turner started telling his part of the story, he wandered up to the castle to visit his next best friends. The following conversation came about, and I thought I would share it with you.
“We did ‘ave an adventure, we five, didn’t we?” Charlie speaks up after a minute.
“Sure did. But…it don’t end well did it? I wish it had turned out different. I’s sorry that…Ah, never mind.”
“Well…” I says, sort of hesitating. Then I shrug and go into it. Somehow I don’t care if Charlie thinks I’s silly. I won’t ever have mentioned it to Arvi. “In the stories Layah and me likes to read and all, whenever there’s somebody what don’t seem to fit, what don’t have a place really with the others, you know, by the end they always turn out to be the lost heir, or the one with the special skill, or something. The one what fixes it all. I guess if this were one of them stories, I’d have turned out to be important, and could have fixed it for everyone. But it’s real life, and I’s just Turner Hitchley, and I’s sorry I weren’t the surprise ending and so we’s stuck with it.” Charlie’s funny choking laugh filled the kitchen, but I don’t mind and just grin a little sheepish at him. He leans closer, still grinning proper, as he answers.
“In real life, Turnah Hitchley, if you look through Scripture and ‘istory, tha important ones are joost who you describe, tha ones everyone tends ta ovahlook and say don’t mattah. But it isn’t because they turn out ta be tha important ones in ‘umanities eyes. No, God looks down and chooses tha most unlikely charactah ‘e ‘as made and says, ‘That one. That weak-kneed, simple-minded, cowardly one, I am going to use ‘im; because when I work through ‘im, everyone knows it is Me, as that poor fellow nevah could do it on ‘is own.’”
“Thanks a lot,” I grinned at him, and he laughed again.
“In your case, you said yourself, you aren’t tha one in this situation. But, Turnah, I think you are wrong…You ‘ave ‘ardly been an idle companion in our travels, little friend. And that is anotha oof tha quirks about real life and ordinary people, Turnah. Tha ordinary people ooften turn out ta be tha moost valiant and smart and useful, even if they are not tha ones soomone might choose if they ‘ad ta pick ah hero. It is tha ordinary ones who shape tha world, not by suddenly finding out tha orphan is rawlly tha long lost prince with tha only ability ta save tha situation, but by being brave and good and standing oop for something when they are tha only ones there ta stop evil. Coome, cheer oop. I am very glad it was ‘joost Turnah Hitchely’ who ‘as been our faithful friend these past months.”
I’m sure you’ve all read the sorts of books Turner mentions; the world is in dire straits of some sort, and one band of heroes is trying desperately to save it. All the time there’s this one extra person, a character who makes you wonder if they are there for comic relief, or if there is something up…and lo and behold, the “extra character” turns out to be the only one that can unite a people, or wield the right blade, or whatever it might be. (Many of you are probably thinking of one particular book at the moment, which shall be nameless as we don’t want spoilers for those who haven’t read Volume 1 of *ahem* that set yet.) As I was nearing the end of Splitting Heirs, I nearly made Turner Hitchley turn out to be one of those “important people.” But I didn’t like it. At all. After I had taken that part out and turned him back into the “ordinary” Turner, I began to realize, like Charlie, that he was better just as he was, a normal little boy, plucked from the streets and given a decent life with good people, an ordinary character who is willing to stand up for those he loves, with bravery and honor. For a number of reasons he was better that way.
None of us are truly ordinary, not with God’s image stamped on our person, our own unique blend of DNA and personality, and our eternal soul. But at the same time, especially in America, we are all extremely ordinary. There are no kings here, no lords or ladies, no barons and baronesses. We are all quite ordinary really. Yet we are all faced with choices every day. Minuscule some, life altering others, but every day brings choices in its wake. As Turner Hitchley comments in a different part of the book; “There ain’t always a way out. Not in real life. But there’s always a right way.” Life is a matter of choosing the right way, with each decision that comes up. Being faced with a choice and choosing the path that will please the God Who made and loves us, and the choice that will be the best for all those God has placed in our life. Often that means sacrificing what we want, putting our own desires to the side, and elevating another’s, deliberately choosing something that is difficult for us but that we know is right. Have you noticed? This is beginning to sound like the definition of a hero. How often have you been called heroic today? Probably not often. But really, we are all either the heroes or villains in our own stories, and our stories intertwine with the stories of each person around us as we move through the day. Choose the right way, make that tiny sacrifice (or that enormous one) that puts other’s good above your own, and be the ordinary hero; not the villain, who acts from pure selfishness.
Charlie’s examples that he points out to Turner are just as true. It is God’s way to choose the youngest son (Gideon, David), the cowardly poor speaker (Moses), the inconsequential fisherman (Peter), or even the villain (Paul). He takes the unlikely, changes their heart, pours His strength into their soul, gives them a mission, and proves that with God all things are possible. We all have a mission given straight from God’s hand. We may not have been given it in a flash that took our sight on the road to Damascus, or from a burning bush, or even something as obviously epic as being called to missionary work. Your mission might be to train a child not to stick their finger in the socket and to love and serve the God who made them, or it might be to go to work nine-to-five in order to shine God’s light to your co-workers and bring home a steady paycheck. Regardless of the way your life looks, you have a mission when you wake up in the morning. God has chosen you to serve Him, and He delights to show His strength through your very ordinariness. Are you proving to the world that God can do anything, through you?
It is the ordinary ones who shine the brightest. A king, or action hero, people expect much of them. When an ordinary person does the unexpected, it shines out like a brilliant white flash of goodness in a dark world. It staggers those who see it, they stumble back a step, shaking their heads, wondering where that came from. And if we are doing our jobs properly, they might just look up to answer that question.