One of the few books I kept when I moved out of my apartment was a dog-eared copy of Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ. In it, Kazantzakis imagines Christ's greatest temptation to be the Ordinary Life--that is, using his superpower to get down from the cross, marry Mary Magdalene, have a family, and settle down. No sacrificial saving the world atonement destiny business...just ordinary living. Christ always had this choice from the beginning, because Jesus the human being, like all human beings, had free will. History tells us Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross; CCD tells us Christ died for our sins. But Kazantzakis dares to imagine another ending, one in which Jesus decides to be "just human," not for our sake, but for his own.
After I realized I wasn't happy living the life of an urban hermit, I donated the bus, moved in with a friend from graduate school while I got my act together, and set out to petition the abbot of Christ in the Desert Monastery in Abiqui, NM, to accept me as a postulant. I figured I may not have been able to cut it as an ascetic on my own, but maybe with the support of the community I would be able to fulfill my destiny as a cenobite living for God alone. I was denied. Rather than sit outside the monastery gates for forty days without food or water as a more serious petition, I accepted this as a sign that God was closing a door to a room that was never really mine to enter in the first place. My destiny, it seemed, was not going to work itself out in monastic life after all.
In the ensuing months I could not help but wonder: am I just an ordinary person trying desperately to live an extraordinary life, whatever that might look like? Or was I an extraordinary person being sentenced to an ordinary life? Maybe I was an extraordinary person destined for great, extraordinary things. Or maybe, I feared, I was just an ordinary person destined, like most everyone else, to live an absolutely ordinary life.