The God Of The Mundane: Reflections on Ordinary Life for Ordinary People
by Matthew B. Redmond
Kalos Press (2012)
* * *
“For we want to be the George Bailey whose significance has been revealed. However, we do not want to be the George Bailey who leads a mundane life, void of the excitement of the wider world which he longed for. We identify with his frustrations. We run away from the mundane. Or we tolerate it in expectation of something…other. Wanting to have the same kind of impact on people’s lives is not the same as wanting to be George Bailey. No one really wants to be George Bailey.” (Matthew B. Redmond)
It is an interesting fact that, in order to portray the significance of an ordinary life, Frank Capra had to make a movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” that is a fantasy. To communicate the point that simple, mundane living and loving can be extraordinarily meaningful and impactful, the director was forced to create an imaginary world in which angels come to earth to teach heavenly lessons to mortals through supernatural machinations.
Apparently, the actual living of our lives does not seem so “wonderful.”
You might think that Christians and churches and pastors would recognize more the need to encourage one another in the midst of the daily ordinariness of life. However, it is an unfortunate fact that we are often just as caught up in the quest for extraordinary experiences, visible, discernible signs of God’s power and favor, and participation in an endless variety of “great things for God” that keep us from viewing our daily lives with anything approaching a sense of wonder.
Matthew B. Redmond agrees, and he has written a marvelous book which gives an alternate perspective.
How do I love Matt Redmond’s new book?
Let me count the ways.
- He is clear-eyed enough to see that, in many Christian circles, “the ordinary is given lip-service, but overlooked like the garnish on a steak dinner.”
- He repents of being a pastor who preached a God who is “waiting for each and every believer to do something monumental.” (Me too, Matt.)
- He affirms that “there is a God for those who are not changing anything but diapers.”
- He recognizes and has the courage to say that most of us have always lived mundane lives, are living mundane lives, and will always live mundane lives. And we need encouragement.
- He is wise enough to read the New Testament as it is and not as we imagine it to be. I am not the Apostle Paul. I am one of those nameless Gentiles in one of his churches. I do not travel the world as my vocation, engaged in daily adventures of the Spirit: winning converts, escaping persecutors, calling down miracles, planting churches, writing the Bible. (Actually that is hagiography that hardly describes Paul’s life either, but that’s another story.) Rather, I am to identify with the “nameless, ordinary believer who listened to Paul and lived faithfully as a farmer, mother, etc., right where they were — they are the standard.”
- He is right to see the disconnect between Paul’s approach to ministry of calling believers to daily faithfulness and our contemporary fetish for zeal and “radical” Christianity. Are we as wont to ask people if they are “willing to be numbered among the nameless believers in history who lived in obscurity” as we are to challenge them to be missionaries or to do something heroic for God?
- When someone asked him to recommend a missionary biography, he encouraged her to find and read a book about a Christian banker first.
- He honors his dental hygienist as an example.
- He writes such breathtaking, quotable passages as this: “There is a spirituality for ordinary people who live ordinary lives. Jesus did not die to change this so much as make it more so. We are not saved from mediocrity and obscurity, the ordinary and the mundane. We are saved in the midst of it. We are not redeemed from the mundane. We are redeemed from the slavery of thinking our mundane life is not enough.”
- He reminds ministers that not everyone is as passionate about or consumed daily with the kinds of things around which a minister’s life revolves.
- He has a strong doctrine of vocation, which recognizes that the plumber who does good work is pushing back the Fall just as much as the minister who preaches.
- He commits a whole chapter to the most neglected NT passage in modern, activist Christianity: 1Thess 4:10-11 — “But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you…” (NRSV). Live quietly. What a concept.
- He draws lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” my favorite film of all time. I love it for many of the same reasons he records in his book.
- He has the insight to see that, here in the U.S., we approach Christianity just like we approach our weekly lives. In life and work, we’re “living for the weekend.” As Christians, we’re living for the extraordinary, the spiritual high, the transformation, the “moment” when “God breaks through.”
- He honors a friend and her husband and their ordinary life of raising four small children.
- He lifts up simple kindness as a great virtue.
- He likes growing older and the perspective it gives him on life and what really matters. I do too.
- He has the guts and wisdom to say: “But I say, be nobody special. Do your job. Take care of your family. Clean your house. Mow your yard. Read your Bible. Attend worship. Pray. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Love your spouse. Love your kids. Be generous. Laugh with your friends. Drink your wine heartily. Eat your meat lustily. Be honest. Be kind to your waitress. Expect no special treatment. And do it all quietly.”
* * *
For these, and a hundred other reasons, I love Matthew B. Redmond’s new book, The God Of The Mundane.
Unfortunately, teaching with Matt’s combination of spiritual insight, common sense, personal credibility, and winsome wit is rare in far too many segments of the Church today.
It doesn’t have to be.
Read this extraordinary book. Meditate on it. Believe it. Share it with others.
Then, like the shepherds who returned to their flocks after hearing angels sing and seeing the miracle of the Incarnation with their own eyes, we can get up on Monday mornings (like George Bailey did), go to our daily work, and have a wonderful life.
More wonderful than we will ever realize.