A year before I started college, I read a stack of books that were hot in the Christian book market (I was the cool kid in high school) and the familiar thread of full-time ministry as the highest calling ran through each. I was not alone. In fact, there was a movement of people my age who grabbed hold of these books and read them cover to cover, determining that full-time ministry was the only worthy calling for any Christian.
I’m sure for some of those people, full-time ministry was a perfect fit for their unique giftings and strengths, but for me and many others, this idea that some work was more spiritual than other work was a heavy burden to carry. These were books that said, “This is how you love and follow Jesus,” and then painted a picture of the Christian life in only primary colors.
The “radical” Christian life has become idolized in our churches and in Christian culture. We view pastors and missionaries as people who have a more direct connection to God, something deeper than what is available to the average person. The outflow of this idolization is a belittling of the lives of small, daily faithfulness.
A Quiet Life
Every Christian is called to a life of faithfulness. For some, faithfulness will be stepping into full-time ministry, and for most, faithfulness will be very, very ordinary. Faithfulness will look like car payments and changing diapers and loving our spouses and loving our families and loving our churches. It will look like soccer practice and family dinners and disciplining children. It will look like a 9-5 job and washing the dishes and reading the Bible every morning before work.
There is a verse in Scripture I think of often when sitting in my beige cubicle. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11, NASB). It is a stunning verse of Scripture, one that has both comforted and challenged me. It is my ambition, my goal, to engage in faithful acts of quiet, daily living. It is my ambition to faithfully attend to my home, my marriage, and my family. It is my ambition be faithful with the work I am given.
The struggle for us, then, becomes a question of what faithfulness looks like, and I would argue that faithfulness for you will look very different than faithfulness for me. God has created us as infinitely complex creatures with unique desires and giftings and struggles. Faithfulness will be equally unique in its outplaying in your life.
I do think it may be helpful to give you some examples from my own life, as long as we can all understand that faithfulness will likely look different for you. Here is how I make it my ambition to practice faithfulness in a few key areas of my life.
This is perhaps the area in which I struggle most with consistency. Folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher do not immediately strike me as tasks I do to serve the Lord. Often I view them as a necessary evil at best and a nuisance at worst. However, caring for our home through mundane tasks is a way of expressing thankfulness to the Lord for our home and faithfully stewarding this gift. In recent days, I have started spending the time it takes to load the dishwasher and sort laundry as times of prayer.
I work a 40 hour-per-week desk job sitting in a beige cubicle. Though it may be difficult to see at times, this is fertile ground for practicing faithfulness. There is a quote I have thumb-tacked to my cubicle wall that reminds me of this every day: “All day long, may we respond to snarkiness with kindness, criticism with teachability, bad traffic with more prayer time, irritating people with mercy and patience, disappointing circumstances with acceptance and grace” (Scotty Ward Smith). My work here, though it feels meaningless at times, is important to the Lord. How I respond to my coworkers, how diligently I edit documents and pursue excellence in my work, how joyfully I work, is all important to God.
Equally important to faithfulness at work, I make an effort to practice faithfulness in rest as well. My husband has been a brilliant example to me of practicing the Sabbath well. By keeping a weekly Sabbath day of rest, I am physically declaring my dependence on the Lord to do the things in my life I am unable to do, and my inability to be for other people what they need at all times. It is an expression of limitation and one that is difficult for me, but keeping a weekly Sabbath has borne fruit in my heart in ways it is difficult to express.
Josiah and I have been married for just over a year, so lest you think I am a marriage expert (ha!), this is still very new territory for me. I can say that we make a habit of spending slow time together, with our phones away or turned to silent. We eat dinner together nearly every night and we do our best to ask questions that are deeper than surface-level. Truly listening to him when we talk together and praying for the things he mentions as being difficult throughout his week are some of the ways I am intentional about practicing faithfulness in my marriage.
I will not pretend for one moment that raising a puppy is anything like raising a child, but I do find myself viewing puppy-raising as an area in my life where I can practice faithfulness. Mowgli, our 14 week old golden retriever, has no instinct of manners and has to be taught what we would like and not like for him to do. I think this is a type of faithfulness because it is quiet work that no one will see except for me and maybe my husband, but it is producing fruit: a puppy who is biting my arms and clothes less and less, knows how to sit and lay down on command, and walks politely beside me around the park.
A Long Obedience
I am far from perfect in any of these. Most days, I find myself stumbling in every one of these areas, begrudgingly unloading the dishwasher or becoming impatient with my dog. Perfection is not the goal, reliance on the Lord and seeing every area of my life as sacred and valuable is the goal, even if I am stumbling on my way toward it. If you have a few moments today, it may be helpful to write down a few areas of your life where you want to practice faithfulness.
Culture taught us that faith must be courageous and then painted a picture in primary colors of what courageous faith should look like. But what is more courageous than an ordinary life of faithfulness? What is more courageous than, as Nietzsche said of the Christian life, “a long obedience in the same direction.”