American christians, oddly similar to the culture around us, seem perpetually drawn to bigger, better, and more. We long for the miraculous and disdain the mundane. We struggle to reconcile Jesus’ promise of an abundant life with our 9-5 experiences in a cubicle surrounded by dysfunctional coworkers.
Most of us think of courage as the ability to look our fears in the eyes and move forward anyway. We think of John Wayne locked and loaded, saddling up despite insurmountable odds. There is another kind of courage that the Christian life requires, though. It’s the kind of courage that gets us out of bed day after day, making the kids’ breakfast again, attending the same meetings, coming home to be present with family. In other words, the Christian life requires us to have the courage to grind.
The courage to grind is the willingness to trust God and obey him amidst the ordinariness of human life. It’s the willingness to rest in his goodness even when we wrestle with the longing to be more important, more wealthy, more influential. In short, the courage to grind is strength to faithfully walk with Jesus in the ordinary rhythms of human life.
The Radical and the Regular
Acts 2 provides us with a stunning picture of the birth of the church. It begins with radical empowerment and conversion—the Spirit descends, fills the mouths of the apostles with foreign languages, and before the week’s out they’ve become a mega-church. What’s interesting to see, though, is that the new Christians responded to this amazing event by returning to their ordinary lives. They kept their jobs, kept their houses (1), kept on eating and going to the temple like they had always done. Certainly Acts will show us people making drastic life changes after their conversion. The norm for Christianity, though, is not as much doing new “christian” activities as it is doing what we’ve always done in a christian way (2).
Take quick inventory: is there a category for “ordinary” in your christianity? Are stories of long, drawn out faithfulness celebrated in your church? Is the factory worker who worked hard and loved his coworkers on the assembly line for 30 years held up as models for younger generations?
Show up and Open Up
It’s an understandable temptation to only associate the presence of God with miraculous moments like Pentecost or the supernatural healings performed by the apostles. We must never forget, though, that the God of the Bible is a God with his hands in the dirt. He dips his hands into the soil to make men and women. He goes for walks in the garden of Eden. He cooks breakfast for his friends on the shore of the sea. He worked a blue collar job. He intimately designed the inner workings of photo-synthesis and mitosis. He’s a God of both the radical and the regular.
This means that Christians must continuously show up to the places where God is present (in short, everywhere!). Acts 2 describes the church as gathering daily. They didn’t come just for the big event. They gathered for meals, for worship, to pray, to serve. They continually showed up in the lives of other people. By committing themselves to the regular, they were there for the radical. Conversely, if we don’t show up when life is ordinary, we will likely miss it when it’s extraordinary.
The invitation for us to make it our aim to live a quiet life, to work with our hands, to be ordinary, but to be ordinary in a christian way. This means showing up with the expectation that God is present, that he is actively advancing his mission, that he is perpetually speaking to us and revealing himself to us. This means opening up our eyes and learning to see God at work all around us. If we are regularly showing up in the lives of other christians we can trust that God is doing something incredible, even if we aren’t personally experiencing it at the time. We open up our eyes by stepping outside of ourselves, committing to ask more questions than we answer. We learn to see God at work in the ordinary by asking other christians how God has revealed himself this week, how they are experiencing his grace. This empowers us with proof of God’s power which will refresh and encourage us in the daily grind. What’s more, this will provide us with the words we need to speak up.
Missionary as Story Teller
If we show up and open up in the ordinary, we will find ourselves daily reminded of God’s power and promises. Imagine if you gathered with your church on Sunday expecting to experience the presence of God through your fellowship with your brothers and sisters. Imagine if you left that gathering armed with fresh stories of God’s faithfulness and life-changing power. Imagine if you walked into work on Monday refreshed, excited, and expectant. What could happen if we saw telling the stories of God as one of our primary tasks as God’s ambassadors? When a co-worker is overwhelmed by grief and sorrow, you can tell him a story of a christian who suffered well. When a neighbor is confused and uncertain, you can tell her a story of a christian who entered the unknown with confidence.
If we are willing to believe in a God of the ordinary, if we are diligent in opening our eyes to seeing him in the “regular”, we will begin to see that all of life is sacred. There is no part of our lives over which God does not claim dominion and there is no aspect of our days in which God is not actively speaking, leading, and revealing. It takes a rare form of courage to seek God in the ordinary, but that is the invitation of the christian life; all who week him will find him.