(This post in it’s original form is here . It has grown a little.)
Perhaps I am missing something. It is possible.
Most of life seems to be pretty ordinary, mundane even. Mundane tasks liter our days and swallow our hours. We open our eyes, close them again, rub our faces and look in the mirror. Shower. We then shave our faces or legs. We all dress every morning, undress every evening. And throughout the day, regardless of sun shining or rain drenching, we must do mundane things over and over. Usually without thought we take on these tasks.
And I have not even mentioned the decisions, moral and practical coming our way in every lane we drive in and cubicle in which we answer the phone. None are earth shattering. Telling the truth here, a kind word there and on any given day not losing your patience with spouse, children, boss, teacher, and neighbor gets no press. No one will notice the steadiness – the victory over the rebellion we all know lies within. More than likely after not losing your temper, you will look out the window of your kitchen/cubicle/office/drive-through teller window and long for something beyond the mundane.
It is hard to imagine you are being spiritual in the midst of all this mundane stuff life throws your way. How do you feel spiritual when you are scrubbing grape juice out of your 6 year-old son’s white shirt? My guess is you prayed God would give you super-human mom strength so you would not have to return to target to replace the only unstained shirt he has.
Brewing coffee and writing legal briefs and making change are what you get paid for but it feels terribly unspectacular and never spiritual. In fact, it feels small, mundane and far afield from the radical lives of the missionary biographies you started to read.
The church may not be helping.
It appears the current religious climate is one of faithfulness and spirituality measured by the eventful and the big – the bombastic. If the waves are not huge and the shifts are not seismic then we assume a kind of carnality. We have redefined radical to the point where the only radical people in the church are those who have sold everything and gone…well, anywhere. But for everyone who does not sell everything, you know, those who shop at Target, go to the beach for vacation and grab some sushi (or Cracker Barrel) weekly – is there a spirituality for them that can be called “radical?” What of homemakers and tellers, clerks and customer service representatives, doctors and lawyers – is there a spirituality for them in the midst of just living a mundane life? Is there a God for them?
We know there is a God for those who are missionaries, pastors and ministry leader; they are living lives of obvious spiritual and eternal consequence. But what about everybody else? What about those who are not pastors and do not want to be?
Am I alone in worrying there is no God for the mundane? You know for those who, in the name of Jesus, are simply faithful spouses, honest in business, love their children well and enjoy the world they live in while waiting for the next – is there a God for them?
I think we have gone awry somewhere along the way. It is no longer not enough for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church, he must now agonize over whether to sell everything to go overseas as a missionary. We think someone who does not want to do ministry is unspiritual. Sure, not everyone can be a vocational missionary. But according to the popular wisdom we should all want to. The only acceptable excuse is ability. Lets face it, this sounds really good and spiritual. But it’s not. It is the very opposite.
It is the very opposite because it says to those are not missionaries and pastors, “If you had the ability, you would be doing something really spiritual, like be a pastor or missionary.” The implication is of course, you are not spiritual and not doing something spiritual…unless you are supporting those people and listening to those people.
In fact, in many ways it is really hard to stay where you are. It is hard because no one celebrates the day-in and day-out faithfulness that goes unseen by the wider world by those who toil in obscurity. No one puts pictures of a mom in Tacoma on their refrigerator so they can pray for her – unless she is in ministry. It is hard because life is not easy anywhere, there is no idyllic paradise in America where sin is not pervasive and the devil is not crouching outside of custom-made doors. And it is probably hard for a few because of the guilt heaped up on them who stay and are made to think they are unspiritual/carnal/unfaithful for doing so.
Right now, someone is questioning whether I care about missions/ministry/etc. at all. You see, that is the problem. We have elevated what is seen as being spiritual and what is radical to the point where all other activity (or seeming lack of activity) leads people to think one may not care. That may be damnable. We must assume there are untold numbers of men and women spreading the gospel of grace quietly throughout their community and making it possible financially for others to go without making a big deal about it and telling everyone on facebook they are doing it.
Part of the problem may be we have made Paul our only hero and not the nameless recipients of his letters. Who would want to be like one of the unknowns when you can be like Paul? What pastor would want to be simply one of Timothy’s appointed elders, never known and never mentioned? What man would want to be simply a day laborer, who has believed the gospel and against the trends of the day treats his wife and children with dignity and affection, dealing honestly with his neighbors? What woman would want to be a nameless mother who at the risk of ridicule and inconvenience, huddles with other brothers and sisters in The Way and listens to a nameless teacher about Jesus? It is all so mundane.
It is almost like a new legalism is emerging. “Quit your job. Do something crazy. Pick up and move. If you do not or are not thinking about doing it then you are suspiciously lacking in the necessary requirements of what we deem ‘spiritual.’
The rock-star preacher thing isn’t helping either. Life seems so mundane after watching them, reading about them and then listening to them. Changing diapers and paying bills on time and being generous and holding the hand of your spouse and caring about your aging parents and having deep friendships and being committed to the church and crying with those who hurt – well, its just not crazy enough. It is so absolutely mundane. And I fear that for most, they do not worship a God who can be glorified in the mundane.
They worship a God who acknowledges only those lives described as crazy, radical, extreme and extraordinary. So not only is there no God for the mundane parts of their lives but there is no God for ninety-percent of their life. He works in the great deeds of great lives alone. No wonder we try to buy his affection with our acts of sacrifice and the forfeiture of our dreams. Or just give up on him altogether.
Is there a God of the mundane? Is there a God who can give meaning to the mundane duties of moms, the mundane tasks of those who clock in and clock out? Is there a God in heaven giving meaning to the mundane lives most everyone leads?
I think there is.
I liked it in its original form, and I like it now. I especially like the part about Paul and the recipients of his letters. Is that new?
It is radical to find the mundane mystical. Wherever God is and is being glorified is mystical, even in the mundane, whether that be in suberbia, the inner city or the third world. Mundane and mystical are evaluations that apply to all environments. Christians look the same no matter where they are because Christ is the same no matter where he is. The question is, is it him, is the mundane mystical? The call to be radical is a call to be honest about who he is and who we are, what he calls us to do and what we are doing. If they match, glory to God! If they don't, there is need for repentance, a need that cannot be denied by staying silent about the discrepency. Where there is faithfulness, there is no shame about who we are, what we are doing, what we have been entrusted with or where we are, meaning there is no fear of legalism since those who are free in Christ are free from all law. Likewise, freedom is not license to sin, license to ignore Biblical responsibility. Conscience and empowerment decide who is real and who is not, not location. Real is radical because God's glory is radical to the world. May all we are, do and say be for God's glory alone.