Welcome to The Sword & Shield, an official blog of Providence Academy! Join us for regular reflection on the true, good, and beautiful in the ordinary and extraordinary places. We'll be drawing from the annals of Church history, the pages of Scripture, the halls of our school, and the joys of our home. May our eyes be focused on our Lord Jesus Christ!
The Crisis of the Ordinary and the Mundane
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise…” (1 Cor. 1:26-27)
Editor's note: Ms. Carrier’s article is a reflection on episode two (“The Crisis of the Ordinary and Mundane”) of the Learning in Wartime podcast. Listen now! Find it on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, and Stitcher as well.
We love it when the ordinary guy wins. Whether it’s Rocky Balboa, Rudy Ruettiger, Frodo Baggins, Atticus Finch, Anne Shirley, or George Bailey, many of our classic books and movies revolve around an ordinary protagonist pitted against the impossible.
We love that the Word became Flesh, that we have a great high priest who is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses, our human limitation and daily temptation, though He did not sin (Hebrews 4). At Christmas we wonder at his humanity, and most of our imaginings deal with what it meant for Jesus to be God and man. How many times have people speculated about Jesus’ childhood and whether or not He had a favorite food or caught a cold or felt irritable? We may more often employ our imaginations when we think about His humanity, not only because we cannot quite conceive His Divinity but because we crave the closeness of Him in the flesh. It gives us hope. Both the bread and wine of communion and the waters of baptism are tangible reminders of this across the denominations.
So why do we struggle with the ordinary? Why do we dread the mundane? Is our faith that small? Or are we simply craving more than this world has to offer?
In our first podcast episode and related blog post, we established that the spiritual and the ordinary aren’t mutually exclusive. Jesus wasn’t a certain percentage God and then a certain percentage man. He was both to the full extent, which is quite scandalous. Paul, Plato, and the news reveal this scandal. The Incarnation perfectly demonstrates divine workings through ordinary means, and as Mr. Ballard mentioned in Episode 2, God didn’t stop there. Jesus chose twelve very ordinary men to follow Him and accomplish His purposes.
Not only were these ordinary men, but these were ordinary men who had failed, who had been rejected, and these men would continue to fail and be rejected. They would question and even rebuke the One who chose them, and they would even attempt to assert themselves as the most extraordinary right before they deserted and denied the Almighty Creator of the Universe. But they would also see Him use everyday things like bread and fish, saliva and dirt, and even each other in order to reveal Himself to the world. The typical turning of man into dust? He would reverse that once again with His death, burial and resurrection. And they would marvel. Again and again and again.
We like that God uses the ordinary. We just don’t want to be ordinary ourselves.
We want to see the spectacular ending of redemption now, forgetting that the majority of the story is those seemingly insignificant steps of the journey. I once had a student complain about The Fellowship of the Ring, “A whole lot of it is just them walking.”
Yes, my friend. That is often what life is. Without “all that walking” Frodo would never have made it to Mordor—and I’m not only talking about Frodo’s walking, or Sam’s, or Gollum’s. Every step the rest of the Fellowship, and even characters without names took, were all directed towards Mordor and the destruction of the Ring.
But let’s be honest, many of us don’t see our callings as anything like a quest to destroy evil and save the world.
I personally identify far more with Niggle, the silly little man from Tolkien’s short story that we discussed in the “On Story” section of Episode 2. I have great ideas (or at least they seem great inside my head), but I never seem to have time because there are so many interruptions that I feel guilty for calling interruptions because they are often little requests or expectations from others. Or, let’s face it, they seem too routine, too reminiscent of my dependence on simple things in order to survive.
But my so-called great ideas are of a relational and creative nature, one that explores and celebrates truth, goodness, and beauty, yet they don’t seem to carry the importance of all the other things that I must do each day. By importance, I really mean urgency. Then comes this feeling that I’m not doing what I really should be because I’m so distracted.
Now, this may partly be true—I may actually be distracted. But perhaps if I would remember to do all as to the Lord, then much would be redeemed. Maybe one day I would see, like Niggle, the workings of my imagination come to be through the everyday duties that I fulfilled.
God wastes nothing: He is in the business of redemption. What condemns us is the belief that our moment by moment calling to love our neighbors is less noble than some grand act of charity. Or to add to that the belief that our mundane tasks—or perhaps worse, the mundane tasks of others—do not really matter and that once we get them out of the way we can tackle the real spiritual work when the real spiritual work is right there before us.
Chelsea Lee Carrier teaches eighth and tenth grade English at Providence Academy. She earned a B.A. in English from Union University and is studying in Faulkner University's Great Books Honors Program. She has six younger siblings and a cat named Strider.