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'Ordinary' Delights

Let us praise the consoling banality of good.
2007This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

There are no ordinary pleasures.

Every good thing, no matter how trivial, can elicit delight. And delight is potent. Something of little significance provokes glee, and the spirit leaps. If you pay attention—and if you count all good things as coming from God—then the mundane can help you glimpse the maker of all delight.

Momentous thrills—a wedding day, the birth of a child, reconciliation between hardened enemies, and a stunning answer to prayer when you're low on hope—point to God more noticeably. So do tragedies, mistakes, and sins. But I'm talking about delights that we encounter more frequently, those we have at our disposal and to which we have become accustomed—the terrain of the trivial, the minor, the normal, the everyday, the routine, even the boring. They, too, reside in the realm of providence.

People shudder, rightly, at what political theorist Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil. As she pointed out, malevolence is good corrupted. If we don't relish the uncorrupted goodness around us, then evil—which is but a dreadful reverie that will never fully come true—is likely to overwhelm us.

So let us give praise for the consoling banality of good.

Ask the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with nard oil and the widow who offered her two mites, and they'd tell you: God takes pleasure in the seemingly insignificant. Ask the hemorrhaging woman who touched Christ's robe amid a pressing crowd, and she'd tell you: The barely noticeable matters to him. Ask the wedding guests in Cana, and they'd tell you: God pays attention to details like wine chemistry, even when it doesn't seem to matter to anyone else.

Finally, consult your body, and it will tell you (chances are, it already has, many times): ...

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Taste and See
Agnieszka Tennant is a former associate editor and editor at large for Christianity Today. She earned her master's degree in international relations at the University of Chicago, where she focused on how religiously-rooted norms influence world politics. Her "Taste and See" column ran from 2006 to 2007.
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