Life is so different from what we expected, I thought, folding my teaching clothes and placing them with my husband’s dance shoes in the bag for Goodwill. Before marriage, I imagined I would live a radical life through overseas missions, inner-city teaching or ministry to refugees. My husband was determined to follow his call as a stage actor in Chicago.
And now? We rent a three bedroom home with a fenced back yard in Colorado. I stay home with our kids and the most radical thing about us is that I used to live in China and my husband is currently an audio book narrator. Apart from that, life is rolling along much like interstate driving on cruise control: fast, smooth and predictable.
A few weeks ago, my husband suddenly began praying for “a vision for our family,” which dug up some soul questions I had hoped to bury.
In the past few years, I’ve inwardly rebelled against the way the church promised me Big Dreams and a Big Life. I’ve discovered the truth: that most of life is made up of mundane moments and tasks sprinkled with splashes of delight. There seem to be a selective few who get to be world changers.
My generation of 30-somethings is wrestling with the incongruity of the youth group and Christian college messages of living a “sold out and radical” life for Jesus in contrast with our Cheerio-decorated, mortgage-paying realities. We’re finding that following Jesus is not quite as glamorous as we expected.
Lately, there is a trend to glorify the ordinary, menial and quotidian details of life. Because maybe if we settle into and embrace our actual lives, then we’ll find the contentment we seek. But even in attempting to rejoice in the daily tasks, I still feel like I’m treading along in the brackish water where contentment and discontentment collide. And you can only tread water so long before sinking under.
And so I sit here in the messy middle, laughing as my children tromp around the backyard, their floppy rain boots on the wrong feet; while also wondering if God wants me to revisit my vow to be a world changer.
When I was 16, a missionary from Uganda stood up and gave a passionate appeal from the pulpit: “Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed — for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told!” (Habakkuk 1:5).
That was the night I went forward to “give my life to missions.” I did believe that God would do something unbelievable in my days, and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be to set me up in a comfortable two-story house in the suburbs.
I eventually went overseas — and God brought me back. So if anything, I’ve stuffed vision-asking back into my hope chest as a forgotten dream. I signed up for the quest and ended up back in the Shire.
Except there’s this niggling feeling. The one that comes when I hear faith stories, mull over Christ’s words, extend my palms during worship songs, and whisper secret prayers for visions. The feeling that there’s more.
God is moving, it’s just that I’ve been standing still. I’ve forgotten the key part of that verse—“…look at the nations and watch.” I’ve been going through life with my spiritual eyes squeezed shut, trying to convince myself that “God doesn’t do radical anymore.” I no longer live with a sense of expectancy, watching for Jesus to make an appearance in my daily life.
Last week we attended a dinner for international students. Our plates piled high with potluck food, we snagged a table with some Asians who I hoped were from China. Out of 200 people in the room, I “happened” to sit next to a man from the remote city where I last lived in China—a city of less than a million in a country of nearly 1.4 billion. It was a bizarre coincidence.
Or a divine one? In a way, I felt a flutter of Jesus’ robe, reminding me that I’m on His road. And it helped me to reconsider my pursuit of “the vision.” Because maybe there is not a single vision for our lives, but a strand of divine coincidences strung together like pearls. The necklace, a composite of many small visions, is finally clasped around our necks in our final breath.
I’m still negotiating with the tension. I want to sink my toes into the beautiful ordinary, but I also want to be watchful, eager and expectant. I don’t want to miss out on even a minute of radical living because I had my eyes shut, trying to assure myself that, No, silly, reality is not wild Holy Spirit rides and crazy conversion stories. Because the Jesus I follow is still the man who was one of the most revolutionary people ever to live. And His spirit is in me, breathing radical life and love into the corners of my soul and whispering gently, “There is more — just watch. I can still amaze you.”
How is your life different from the one you had imagined for yourself?
How do you see Jesus moving in your everyday?