Sometimes I just shake my head and laugh. At myself. I think yesterday the good Lord may have had a little chuckle too.
Because I have this uncanny knack for acting as if doing big, grand things are no big deal. As if–my latest grandiose conception–adopting teen siblings is no big deal. As if we could pull that off like we pull off hosting a birthday party.
[7/21/20 Happy Update: These siblings were adopted one year after the original post by a loving Wisconsin couple.]
Big And Small Things, Upside-Down
That I could embrace something as life-changing as the thought of taking two children into our family for life and in the same 24 hours balk at taking one needy young man into our van for two hours may be comical. It is, for sure, inconsistent and upside-down.
And balk I did when the doorbell ring at 8:15 on Saturday morning. I was eager for a mother-son date with Gabe after his game. I resented this surprise arrival.
That’s upside-down: embracing the big and grand and tripping over the little and mundane.
But we know it’s the small things- thoughts and acts- that form habits and character. And if you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength. But we are those who rejoice in the day of small things.
Still, some of us would polar plunge into Lake Michigan for any number of reasons, but can keep we our tongues from grumbling when the shower suddenly goes cold?
Now that’s hard.
Choosing What We Did Not Choose
It might have something to do with choice. Chafing at the little stuff while embracing the big things might have something to do with our struggle to choose what we did not choose.
When we decide on a life-changing course of action and we decide to take the plunge, well- that’s different from when God decides a thing for us. Like, say, when he says be kind and take the kid who needs a ride and do all things– including taking a cold shower- without grumbling or complaining.
Maybe little things are so hard because they weren’t in our master plan. Because who chooses a cold shower in February in Wisconsin?
Or maybe we just prefer the drama.
He Would Have Done Any Great Thing
While I was laughing at my own inconsistency, Naaman popped to mind. His story is recorded in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was commander of the Syrian army. When he contracted leprosy, he sought help from Elisha, the famed healer and prophet of God.
Elisha’s prescription was not grand. So it’s no wonder proud Naaman didn’t like it: Go wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored, Elisha’s messenger said.
The muddy, little Jordan River, Naaman thought then ran off in a rage.
Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not the Abana and Pharpar the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?
Naaman expected the exceptional and desired a grand cure– like the mighty prophet working his wonders and waving his hands. Washing in the dinky, little muddy river was demeaning. So Naaman wanted nothing to do with Elisha.
He would have done any great thing to be cured. Naaman had already traveled miles and miles and offered a vast treasure.
But a commonplace, mundane cure? Never.
Supernatural Grace (for the Mundane)
Maybe Oswald Chambers felt this strange inversion in himself, too. Maybe he know what it was to embrace a great cause and balk at the everyday.
Maybe he shared the impulsive boldness that I share with Naaman and with Peter, I’ll-die-with-you-after-I-deny-you Peter, too. Big-talking, water-walking Peter, who had grand ideas but stumbled on the mundane.
In “Impulsiveness Or Discipleship?” Chambers explains,
Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on water is easy to someone with impulsive boldness, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is something altogether different. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he “followed Him at a distance” on dry land (Mark 14:54)…
It does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God- but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people- and this is not learned in five minutes.
Disciples of Christ aim to be exceptional in the ordinary and love the ones they’re with.
Loving Our Neighbor Is Harder
Our duty is to love our neighbor not the mass of nameless humanity. GK Chesterton nails that: We have to love our neighbour because he is here… He is the sample of humanity which is actually given to us.
My heart had grand adoption plans. If God had made it clear us that we’re to adopt the siblings, I’d do that big thing in a heartbeat.
But when the doorbell rang at 8 AM it wasn’t an “if”. It was God’s clear call for me to forgo my plan and love this little 5th-grade “neighbor.” He was here.
We don’t have to do exceptional things for God, we have to be exceptional–and I take that for faithful and obedient–among ordinary 10-year-old boys.
That’s hard. Learning to live in that supernatural grace is not learned in five minutes.
“If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:20
Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.