Life is ordinary.
Life is a blend of extraordinary moments intersecting with many more ordinary moments experienced in everyday life. We can all attest to this reality.
When it comes to this extraordinary-ordinary dynamic, where does faith take root? Or as Christians, how does one cultivate a committed life of discipleship over the course of all we experience in a lifetime?
Do extraordinary experiences most shape our faith journey? Conversion, baptism, marriage, tragedy, sickness, healing, and all a whole host of other things are tangible marks in our lives where in a way, positively or negatively, faith is shaped.
But what about faith in ordinary everyday life? Work, boredom, eating, friendship, parenting - all the “small stuff” takes up far more of our time yet can seem insignificant when it comes to an encounter with God.
Looking back at my own life, I'm prone to suggest it's the extraordinary moments that have most shaped my experience of faith. For example, my first summer at working at camp I was given opportunity to lead, discovering a passion to help others see God’s goodness while also experiencing this goodness myself. I'll never forget that summer and it’s set my life on a trajectory of continuing to lead others in their faith. This is just one example.
But while my memory says these type of extraordinary experiences are most formative, my everyday life tells a different story. Where I've had extraordinary moments of seeing God at work, ordinary life is all the time. And if “God is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17), ordinary life cannot be dismissed as secondary when it comes to faith formation.
In some ways, such belief can seem counterintuitive - don't Christians seek to proclaim the spectacular glory of God in the world? Surely an extraordinary God deserves extraordinary testimony! Faith in “what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1), however, is one which extends beyond memories, doing the hard work of noticing the ordinary work of God.
No doubt such a recognition takes a certain honesty for how we do and do not experience God in the world. We may say faith matters in ordinary life, but experience tells us otherwise. The mundane is often more life taking than life giving. Doubt consumes everyday life, not faith. In the moment of honest doubt, then, we cannot retreat to extraordinary memories - the good ‘ole days of encountering God! - but have the courage to embrace our weakness as the path to ordinary faith.
As Brené Brown describes, we need “ordinary courage” -
“The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary” (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection).