Greatness in the Mundane

Posted on: May 1st, 2018

This post was originally shared by our talented Middle School Language Arts teacher in our weekly staff gathering on Mondays as a devotional and then adapted to share on our blog.  

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the mundane rhythms of life.  Maybe it’s because it’s April and I’m “teacher-tired” – everyone in this room knows what I mean when I say “teacher-tired” –  it’s that bone-tired weariness that goes beyond the reach of sleep.

Maybe it’s because Wisconsin decided to hold off on spring for far too long this year, and because of the seasonal “boycott,” UW-Milwaukee’s baseball team (and their handsome coach who happens to be my husband) has had to play 33-straight games on the road.  That is, thirty-three and counting…there are 4 more road games this week.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about the mundane things of life – the daily tasks that glue our lives together hour by hour: the laundry and the shopping and the meal prep and the running of kids to and fro, the tedious but important stuff that we work out behind the scenes before we step onto the stages of our classrooms, the countless hours making comments on papers that may (or may not) be read while also posting grades and returning emails in timely fashion. Because of the repetition – the redundancy – of the daily grind, these mundane tasks often become a kind of white noise in our lives.  And if we let it, it can drown out a holy chorus that speaks to the beauty and greatness that God can create in the midst of the mundane.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes living in the spin cycle of the mundane make me feel like I’m missing out on some bigger “Kingdom Work”…something greater, something bigger, something more.  But, as author Ann Voskamp asks, “what if living a life of greatness for God is not about doing a few great things, but instead it’s about living a life of holy redundancy—showing up faithfully day after day in the seemingly little things? What if our greatest investments are faithfully raising our family, building a God-honoring career, cultivating a healthy heart, and developing strong relationships?”

In his book, Dream Big, Think Small, author and pastor Jeff Manion shares what he has observed through his thirty steady and consistent years of ministry, which is this: the remarkable life is built by taking a thousand unremarkable steps.   

He shares, “As believers, we want our lives to count.  We long to do great things for the kingdom of God.  However, greatness is rarely achieved by doing great things, but instead by doing good things repetitively.

The tragedy is that, while waiting for great opportunities to come along, we miss out on a parade of good opportunities that march steadily by. Goodness is largely ignored because it seems too common, too mundane, too everyday.

Consider the way this plays out in the example of a small community.  A town mourns the death of three teenagers killed in a car accident.

Tragedy struck with screeching tires and twisting metal. The horrific news sweeps through the high school with the devastating shock of a tsunami. Bouquets and handwritten notes form a spontaneous memorial at the intersection where the cars collided. Tragedy strikes.  Conversely, goodness rarely ‘strikes.’ It arrives on the stage with little drama.

In the same community that experienced the awful accident, a devoted coach painstakingly builds a cross-country program for middle school girls. For a dozen seasons, she forges diligence, teamwork, and confidence. While some of these girls are the products of affirming, encouraging homes, others will remember their seventh-grade cross-country coach as “the first person who believed in me.”

And then, twenty years pass.  Ask a thirty-three-year-old woman from that community what influences impacted her while she was growing up. Reflecting for a moment, she answers, ‘The Accident’ and ‘The Coach.’

But recall that ‘The Accident’ and ‘The Coach’ arrived at different speeds and in radically different ways.  Tragedy strikes. Goodness grows slowly.  The snail’s pace at which goodness travels will require extreme devotion to the journey.

Goodness demands staying power. The question is whether we will summon the requisite endurance for a slow, faithful, consistent outpouring of love.

I believe this is why Paul urged an early community of Jesus’ followers with these words from Galatians 6:9: ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’”

Paul speaks to the issue of weariness because a life of goodness can be tedious and redundant and absolutely overflowing with the mundane.  Manion adds, “It involves bringing ourselves again and again, often to the same tasks and often to the same people. The repetition takes something out of us. It drains our energy. Paul was writing here of a kind of weariness (maybe even “teacher-tired”) that leads to calling it quits.  But he also reminds us that we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.”

“If I’m honest, I wish Paul had selected a different metaphor. Perhaps something with a little more speed, and decidedly quicker results. But, no, Paul went with farming. Because you can’t rush a harvest. You plow, you plant, and you wait.  And this is not a mistake: I believe the farming image can radically adjust our expectations. Sometimes a life of positive impact is about as interesting as watching a garden grow.”

And there it is: Goodness grows slowly.  It arrives through the repeated kindness of the diligent faithful.  It arrives quietly, traveling the slow path of devoted love.

As Manion gently reminds us, we must “dream big, but think small,” we must toil with the slow process that yields a harvest. Day by day, through one loving act after another, we have an opportunity to grow a life of greatness.  Through one more paper comment. Through one more load of laundry. Through one more trip to the grocery store.  Through one more, and then another, and then another. We have the opportunity to grow a life of greatness. We just have to keep showing up and planting.  We have to keep keeping on…even in – no, especially in – the mundane.


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